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OCT 2 5 2001 ! 

I !--— I 

I theological seminary 



Volume XI.1 
Spring 1999 


The Princeton Theological Seminary Graduate Forum 


Physical Laws and Divine Agency 

Clifford Blake Anderson i 

Toward a Postmodern Methodology for 
Pastoral Counseling 

Jaco Hamman 


The Aporia of Existence 

Dieter Heinzl 


To Teach As the Evangelists Did? 

Reid Blackmer Locklin 


Whose Lion Is It Anyway? 

D. Matthew Stith 


Book Reviews 


SSN 1047 - 1057 

Koinonia Journal is published by doctoral students under the auspices of 
Princeton Theological Seminary and is intended to promote interdiscipli¬ 
nary discussion and exploration of new and emerging issues in the study of 
religion. The journal is published semi-annually. Contributions are wel¬ 
come: style specifications are available over the internet at http:// Correspondence and subscription orders 
should be addressed to Koinonia Journal, Princeton Theological Seminary, 
P.O. Box 821, Princeton, NJ 08542-0803. Subscriptions and submissions may 
also be sent via the Internet to 

Koinonia is indexed in Religion Index One: Periodicals, published by the 
American Theological Library Association, 820 Church Street, Suite 300, 
Evanston, IL 60201. Book reviews are indexed in Index to Book Reviews in 
Religion. These indexes are part of atla Religion Database, available on (!:d- 
ROM from ATLA and also on-line via Dialog Information Services. 

The paper used in this publication 
is acid-free and meets the minimum 
requirement of the American Na¬ 
tional Standard for Information Sci¬ 
ences—Permanence of Paper for 
Printed Library Materials, ansi 

Karla Ann Koll, Outgoing Executive Editor 

Christopher S. D. Rogers, Incoming Executive Editor 

Tomas Hancil, Outgoing Production Editor 

Scott R. Paeth, Incoming Production Editor 

Allan H. Cole Jr., Practical Theology Editor 

Dieter Heinzl and Rachel Baard, Theology Editors 

Haruko Ward and Joe Coker, History Editors 

Matthew Skinner, New Testament Editor 

James K. Mead and Frank Yamada, Old Testament Editors 

Thomas S. Bremer, Editor-at-Large 

Arun W. Jones, Mission, Ecumenics and History of Religions Editor 

®i 999 by Princeton Theological Seminary. All rights reserved 




SEP 2 5 ZOOi 

theological SF YICARY 


Princeton Theological Seminary 
Graduate Forum 

Volume XI. 1 

Spring 1999 

Digitized by the Internet Archive 
in 2020 with funding from 
Princeton Theological Seminary Library 



Volume XI.i • SPRING 1999 



Editorial ix 

Physical Laws and Divine Agency 

Clifford Blake Anderson 1 

Towards a Postmodern Methodology for Pastoral Counseling 

Jaco Hamman 23 

The Aporia of Existence 

Dieter U. Heinzl 49 

To Teach As the Evangelists Did? 

An Experiment in New Testament Theology 

Reid Blackmer Locklin 65 

Whose Lion Is It, Anyway? 

The Identity of the Lion in Amos 3:12 

D. Matthew Stith 





God's Human Speech: A Practical Theology of Proclamation. 
By Charles L. Bartow. 

Michael G. Hegeman 


Twin City Tales: A Hermeneutical Reassessment of Tula and 
Chichen Itzd. By Lindsay Jones. 



Theology of the Old Testament: Testimony, Dispute, Advocacy. 
By Walter Brueggemann. 



For This Land: Writings on Religion in America. By Vine 
Deloria Jr. 



Text and Truth: Redefining Biblical Theology. By Francis 



Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in 
North America. Edited by Darrell L. Guder. 

Carol L. Schnabl Schweitzer 

Saints' Lives and the Rhetoric of Gender: Male and Female in 
Merovingian Hagiography. By John Kitchen. 

Marianne M. Delaporte 



Landmarking: City, Church and Jesuit Urban Strategy. By 
Thomas M. Lucas, S.J. 

S. K. Kim 


The Textual Development of the Qumran Community Rule. 

By Sarianna Metso. 

Henry Wolfgang Leathem Rietz 




Word Without End: The Old Testament as Abiding Theologi¬ 
cal Witness. By Christopher Seitz. 

Janell Johnson 

The Dead Sea Psalms Scrolls and the Book of Psalms. By 
Peter W. Flint. 

Brent A. Strawn 

The Common Task: A Theology of Christian Mission. By M. 
Thomas Thangaraj. 

Arun W. Jones 






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The inside front cover of this journal states that Koinonia “is intended to 
promote interdisciplinary discussion and exploration of new and emerg¬ 
ing issues in the study of religion.” Lately, we of the editorial board have been 
asking ourselves just what we mean by “interdisciplinary.” Through our dis¬ 
cussion, we have come to a greater understanding of the particular niche 
Koinonia inhabits in the world of academic publishing as a journal written 
and produced by graduate students in religious and theological studies. Td 
like to share the conclusions we reached with our readers as I introduce the 
essays gathered together in this issue of Koinonia. 

The most obvious meaning of interdisciplinary in the case of Koinonia 
is that we publish work done across a wide range of disciplines under the 
general rubric of theological and religious studies. Our editorial board 
brings together scholars with expertise in a variety of disciplines. Our offer¬ 
ings in this issue include theology, pastoral counseling, mission. New Tes¬ 
tament theology, and Old Testament exegesis. Recent past issues have in¬ 
cluded articles on Christian ethics, philosophy, social and cultural analysis 
of specific contexts for the doing of theology, and history. We hope in the 
future to publish an even wider range of material as our pool of submis¬ 
sions expands. 

Koinonia’s understanding of interdisciplinary, however, goes beyond 
publishing articles from different disciplines. We are also interested in es¬ 
says that are themselves explicitly interdisciplinary in their content and/or 
methodology. Several of the articles in this issue exemplify these criteria. 
Moreover, we have found that there are a variety of ways of writing an inter¬ 
disciplinary article. 

One approach to being interdisciplinary is to examine the basis on which 
current conversations between disciplines are being carried out. Many theo¬ 
logians, Clifford Anderson reminds us, have worked to develop models of 
divine agency that do not contravene the concepts of physical laws emerg¬ 
ing from the natural sciences. In his essay, Anderson argues that this ap¬ 
proach to divine agency is flawed because the claims made about physical 
laws depend on a form of metaphysical realism that is philosophically un- 



tenable and leads to confounding the agency of God and the laws of nature. 
Anderson presents a constructivist interpretation of scientific laws that 
leaves open the possibility for both particular and general providence. Thus, 
the language game of theology, rather than the laws described by the physical 
sciences, provides the broader conceptual framework in which Christians 
may discern the agency of God in the world. 

Jaco Hamman points out that interdisciplinary activity is central to pas¬ 
toral theology’s self-understanding. The application of pastoral theology in 
the clinical setting of pastoral counseling always draws on psychological 
insights, yet Hamman claims that the current debate about theology and 
science has not been addressed by practical theologians. He examines the 
nature of interdisciplinary activity as described in the pastoral theological 
models of Gerben Heitink and Deborah van Deusen Hunsinger. He then 
turns to the postmodern understanding of rationality found in Calvin O. 
Shrag’s work as a possible source of both critique and affirmation for pasto¬ 
ral theology and pastoral counseling. 

Another interdisciplinary approach places figures from different disci¬ 
plines in dialogue with one another. New directions in philosophy provide 
us with new tools for examining theological reflection, which in turn allows 
us to evaluate philosophical conclusions from a theological perspective. In 
this issue. Dieter Heinzl places theologian Karl Barth in dialogue with 
Jacques Derrida, the French Jewish philosopher, to explore the aporia of 
human existence, the dilemma of living life always mindful of the looming 
border between life and death that awaits each one of us. Though Jesus Christ, 
presented in the New Testament as the Coming One, has crossed this border, 
we as human beings are still confronted with uncertainty as to what lies on 
the other side. Heinzl asks if the apocalyptic longing of deconstruction 
might return us to a New Testament understanding of the parousia of Jesus 

Some topics of investigation require a scholar to work across various 
disciplines in order to construct an adequate response. Reid Locklin begins 
his essay by looking at documents of Vatican II and the National Confer¬ 
ence of Catholic Bishops that deal with education and see schools as a re¬ 
sponse to the missionary mandate given to the church by Jesus. The U.S. 
bishops even suggest, as the title of their pastoral letter indicates, that the 
church is ‘To Teach as Jesus Did. ” Rather than focus on Jesus as a model edu¬ 
cator, Locklin asks if we might not look at the evangelists as model educa¬ 
tors. He initiates his analysis by looking at John and Luke-Acts as documents 



intended to educate communities within specific sociocultural contexts. 
Here he draws on the insights of anthropology to help reconstruct the 
social worlds of the Johannine and Lukan communities. Literary analy¬ 
sis of the text further shows how both evangelists, though they have very 
different christologies, used irony and other devices to bind themselves 
and their audiences together in communities of meaning. Locklin brings 
historical evidence from the first century together with contemporary 
educational theory to discuss education and socialization in that con¬ 
text. After careful exegetical attention to particular texts, Locklin pro¬ 
ceeds by analogy on the evangelists as educators to appropriate the in¬ 
sights gained from his exegesis for the education mission of the con¬ 
temporary church. 

Another way of being interdisciplinary in the context of a journal like 
Koinonia is to write out of one’s own discipline in a way that is accessible to 
those outside the field. Anyone who reads Amos 3:12 might ask whom the 
prophet sought to represent with the figure of the lion. Addressing this ques¬ 
tion, D. Matthew Stith examines the two options usually put forth by exegetes 
and then offers his own suggestion, one he argues is more in keeping with 
the overall message of Amos. His conclusions have implications not only for 
Biblical scholars, but also for ethicists who examine contemporary social 
structures and preachers who proclaim this passage from the pulpit as God’s 
word to and for people today. 

We take very seriously the subtitle that describes Koinonia as a forum, a 
place where ideas are presented and conversations can begin. Now that 
Koinonia is present on the World Wide Web and in more than 90 libraries, it 
is our hope that an increasing number of graduate students will visit the fo¬ 
rum and decide to offer their ideas and insights for publication. 

This is my final editorial as executive editor of Koinonia. As I depart I 
want to offer once again my thanks to the members of the editorial board. 
The editors of Koinonia are so committed to the exchange of ideas that they 
take time away from their own doctoral studies to work on publishing the 
work of others. It has been a privilege to work with such a group. A special 
word of thanks must go to Tomas Hancil, our outgoing production editor. 
He ushered Koinonia into the information age by introducing us to pub¬ 
lishing on the Internet. He also improved the appearance of the journal in 
innumerable ways. I also want to thank the Ph.D. Studies Office of Princeton 
Theological Seminary for their financial and moral support of Koinonia. 
Finally, the board also thanks Kathleen Whalen of the Communications/ 



Publications Office of Princeton Theological Seminary for her help with our 
new cover design that marks the beginning of our second decade of pub¬ 

Karla Ann Koll 
— Executive Editor 

KOINONIA XI/l (1999) 1-22 

Physical Laws and Divine Agency 



The purpose of this paper is to argue against a metaphysigal pigture of 
the world that denies a place for God’s action in the worldd The picture is of 
a universe bound in by physical laws. The idea is that once the initial condi¬ 
tions of the universe are established, physical laws determine the outcome 
of all subsequent events taking place in the universe. If scientific inquiry 
were to discover all the physical laws and the values of all the initial condi¬ 
tions, in principal scientists would be able to predict the future. Given the 
state of the universe at any one point in time, scientists could predict the 
state of the universe at any other point in time. A corollary to this picture is 
the expectation that scientists would also be capable of providing an ac¬ 
count of the fundamental cause of any event occurring in the universe. Sci¬ 
entists could illustrate that a certain combination of scientific laws and ini¬ 
tial conditions necessarily caused an event to occur. Science would therefore 
eliminate any need to speak of God’s agency (cf. Hawking 1988:53). 

This picture above presents a deterministic and reductionistic account of 
the world—what we might call a “scientistic” picture of the world. In many 
ways, the picture is a caricature. Yet, like all good caricatures, its exaggera¬ 
tions point to underlying realities. Despite the advent of quantum mechan¬ 
ics, which reveals the existence of indeterminacy at the substrate of physi¬ 
cal reality, the notion of a world bound in by physical laws maintains a 
strong grasp on the minds of scientists and non-scientists alike. The linger¬ 
ing influences of the scientistic picture have spread beyond the sciences 

11 wrote this paper in the context of a course on theology and cosmology taught 
by Dr. Wentzel van Huyssteen at Princeton Theoloigcal Seminary in 1995-6 .1 would 
like to thank Dr. van Huyssteen for his instruction and guidance. 



themselves and continue to affect thinking about agency in philosophy and 
theology. Many theologians have worked hard to develop models for divine 
agency that do not contravene the concept of scientific law associated with 
this picture. Yet I argue in this paper that the picture itself is flawed. The pic¬ 
ture depends on an untenable form of metaphysical realism. It also ignores 
recent developments in the sciences, which mitigate against both reduction- 
istic and deterministic conceptions of scientific law. The scope of scientific 
laws turns out to be more modest and more limited than scientists, philoso¬ 
phers and theologians had once assumed. In what follows, I contend that a 
constructivist interpretation of the ontological status of scientific laws 
coupled with a clarified understanding of the function of the concept of law 
within scientific practice opens up renewed possibilities for thinking about 
divine agency within theology. I hope to demonstrate that by overcoming 
the scientistic picture of scientific law, theologians may defend a robust con¬ 
ception of divine agency without undue worry about contravening scien¬ 
tific laws. 

Let me put forward some important provisos before I begin. I recognize 
that I am dealing with scientific practices at an extremely high level of ide¬ 
alization. To defend my thesis thoroughly would require a much thicker level 
of description of the way scientists use laws within the different scientific 
disciplines. Also, I should note that the authors whom I discuss below work 
with a concept of scientific law developed primarily from the standpoint of 
physics. I justify basing my broad, idealized discussion of scientific law 
loosely on a concept of law drawn physics because I think that the scientistic 
picture emerges from a cultural conception of the sciences that takes phys¬ 
ics to be the paradigm for science. I do recognize, of course, that it is prob¬ 
lematic to consider the various sciences together under the single heading 
“Science.” My goal in what follows is to break the hold on theologians of the 
scientistic picture and the concept of scientific law that it engenders; whe¬ 
ther I do so by making too many concessions to stereotypes associated with 
that picture I leave an open question. 


The ontological status of the laws of nature has been the focus of inten¬ 
sive debate in the past several years. At question is whether scientific laws 
approximate to transcendent, mind-independent laws of nature, which 

Anderson: Physical Laws and Divine Agency 


govern the universe, or whether they are idealized descriptions of regularly 
occurring phenomena, which have no language-independent existence. 
The first option we may entitle “platonism” and the second option “con¬ 

The platonist argues that laws of nature exist independently of scientific 
inquiry. In some sense, the transcendent laws have an objective existence 
that scientific inquiry discloses but does not construct. The platonist also 
holds that such laws of nature govern the physical behavior of the universe 
that they transcend. In The Mind of God, Paul Davies adopts a largely pla¬ 
tonic conception of the laws (1992). He writes that it his “belief that the laws 
of nature are real, objective truths about the universe, and that we discover 
them rather than invent them” (1992:84). Davies argues that scientific in¬ 
quiry strives to uncover these laws of nature. Of course, he admits that the 
scientific laws postulated by contemporary scientists in the course of their 
work can be considered as only rough approximations to the transcendent 
laws (1992:86). But Davies notes that many physicists, preeminently Stephen 
Hawking, anticipate that through scientific research these postulated laws 
will approximate more and more closely the transcendent laws. In the end, 
Davies notes that many— though not all—platonists hope that the laws of 
science will eventually converge on the transcendent laws of nature them¬ 
selves (1992:86). 

What is Davies’ warrant for asserting the existence of transcendent laws 
of nature? As I understand his argument, he develops the warrant for that 
assertion in two stages. First, he notes that appeal to physical laws forms an 
integral part of the scientific explanation of any physical regularity. Second, 
he suggests that the physical regularities themselves imply the existence of 
transcendent laws that govern them. 

In “The Intelligibility of Nature,” Davies argues that any properly scien¬ 
tific explanation of physical regularities “entails exploring physical processes 
using experiment and observation, and fitting the data to a mathematical 
scheme that is organized around certain fundamental laws” (1993:148). 
Davies distinguishes two kinds of knowledge that contribute to scientific 
explanations: the phenomenological and the theoretical (1993:149). We gain 
phenomenological knowledge through the sensory observation of physical 
regularities in the world. We acquire theoretical knowledge, by contrast, by 
discerning the non-sensory “mathematical interrelationships” that under¬ 
gird those physical regularities (1993:149-50). Davies notes that merely to 
record physical regularities does not constitute a properly scientific theory. 



Scientific accounts of physical regularities cannot be considered mature 
unless they explain those regularities on the basis of underlying physical 
laws (1993:150). 

Consider the following example (cf. Davies 1993:149-50). I observe that 
every time I drop a ball it falls to the ground. Davies would term my obser¬ 
vation “phenomenological knowledge” (1993:149). My observation provides 
me with the raw material for a scientific account of that physical regularity 
but the mere sensory observation of that regularity remains pre-theoretical. 
The formulation of a general physical law (in this case, Newton’s law of uni¬ 
versal gravitation) grants me insight into the theoretical reason why the ball 
falls whenever I let it drop. Moreover, by knowing the relevant physical laws, 
I am also able to predict accurately what would take place were I to drop the 
ball under different conditions. I now have a properly scientific account be¬ 
cause I am able to perceive the “underlying laws governing this particular 
process,” which are hidden to sense observation “by incidental features such 
as air resistance” (Davies 1993:149). 

A properly scientific account of physical regularities therefore requires 
the postulation of physical laws. But what supports Davies’ speculation that 
such postulated physical laws correspond to transcendent laws of nature? In 
my view, Davies puts forward an indispensability argument to license that 
speculation. The indispensability argument spans the epistemological gap 
that exists between inductive observation and physical laws. 

Davies recognizes that inductive reasoning makes a fallible epistemologi¬ 
cal linchpin between phenomenological knowledge and theoretical knowl¬ 
edge. He knows that inductive reasoning cannot decisively establish that any 
physical regularity is lawlike (1992:81). Phenomenological knowledge, which 
is based on inductive observation of regularities, cannot support counter- 
factual inferences, which many philosophers of science consider to be a dis¬ 
tinguishing mark of lawfulness (cf. Loewer 1995:266). I may reasonably in¬ 
fer on the basis of phenomenological knowledge that, ceteris paribus, a ball 
would fall to the ground if I were to drop it. Without having direct aware¬ 
ness of the transcendent physical laws, however, I cannot say that the ball 
would necessarily fall. Still, Davies recognizes that scientists “use inductive 
reasoning to argue that these regularities are lawlike” (1992:81). What entitles 
scientists to make such arguments? Davies admits that, strictly speaking, 
there is no guarantee that the physical regularities that scientists observe are 
lawful. But he contends that scientific investigation cannot proceed without 
postulating their lawfulness. “The belief.. .that there are indeed dependable 

Anderson: Physical Laws and Divine Agency 


regularities of nature. an act of faith, but one which is indispensable to 
the progress of science” (1992:81). Davies’ indispensability argument holds 
together the otherwise fragile link between inductive reasoning and the as¬ 
cription of lawfulness. 

Davies does not think that the “act of faith” on which his indispensibility 
argument rests is physically unwarranted. Davies makes clear his conviction 
that the physical regularities that scientific laws describe are objectively real 
and not projections of the human imagination. 

The existence of regularities in nature is an objective mathematical 
fact. On the other hand, the statements called laws that are found in 
textbooks clearly are human inventions, but inventions designed to 
reflect, albeit imperfectly, actually existing properties of nature. With¬ 
out this assumption that the regularities are real, science is reduced to 
a meaningless charade (1992:81). 

Crucial here is the link that Davies makes between the indispensability of 
postulating scientific laws for scientific investigation and the assumption 
that such postulated scientific laws reflect “actually existing properties of na¬ 
ture.” Does the indispensability of postulating scientific laws in scientific 
practice also require us to assume that there are transcendent laws of nature? 
Davies does not quite argue that we must make that link. He admits that 
direct claims about the transcendent existence of the laws of nature are not 
possible because they make themselves manifest “... in the behavior of phy¬ 
sical things” (1992:84). But he signals his personal conviction that real laws 
of nature do stand behind the regularities of the physical world (1992:84). If 
Davies is right to argue that the scientific laws that physicists develop are 
intended to reflect actual properties of nature, it would be hard to deny that 
among such properties are objective laws of nature. But is the purpose of 
scientific laws to reflect laws of nature? 

In “Contemporary Physics and the Ontological Status of the Laws of 
Nature,” William Stoeger adopts a constructivist position vis-a-vis the laws 
of nature (1993). Stoeger writes, “It is an illusion to believe that these incred¬ 
ibly rich representations of the phenomena are unconstructed isomorph¬ 
isms we merely discover in the real world. Instead they are constructed — 
painstakingly so—and there is no evidence that they are isomorphic with 
structures in the real world as it is in itself’ (1993:216). Constructivists do 
not deny that scientific practice requires the postulation of scientific laws 



able to support counterfactuals. The descriptions formulated by scientists 
are stringent enough that they are ordinarily able to support counter¬ 
factuals (though they may not be stringent enough to support counter¬ 
factuals in every instance). What constructivists deny is that this require¬ 
ment gives scientists license to assume that such laws exist independently of 
scientific inquiry. According to Stoeger, the scientific laws are useful tools for 
discerning larger patterns in reality, but they do not prescribe or dictate 
these patterns (1993:210). For this reason, constructivists hold that scientists 
must remain humble about the possibility of exceptional occurrences. 

Recasting Stoeger’s argument in Wittgensteinian terms, we might say that 
certain concepts—such as “scientific laws”—are required in order to play 
the “language-game” of science. When one is making a move within the sci¬ 
entific “language-game” one must respect the rules governing the use of its 
concepts. These rules delimit the number of successful theories that scien¬ 
tists may construct. An important rule of the scientific “language-game” is 
that scientific theories should respect the most basic scientific laws. 

For instance, if I construct a theory of gravitation which does not yield 
conservation laws of mass-energy and total angular momentum, I will 
have good reason for abandoning it immediately. These conservation 
laws are considered fundamental in any adequate theory because they 
are observed to be fulfilled in all cases—even in the most extreme and 
primordial ones (Stoeger 1993:220). 

Stoeger admits therefore that laws such as the conservation laws maybe said 
to have prescriptive force (1993:220). Yet these laws have prescriptive force 
only inside the language-game of science. The question whether a real “law 
of conservation” corresponds to the “law of conservation” posited by the sci¬ 
entific “language-game” remains unsettled. 

Stoeger wonders if it makes sense to speculate about this possibility. He 
writes: “.. .it seems highly unlikely that we can ever justify postulating an 
independent existence for the laws, or even make sense of such a suggestion. 
They belong, first and foremost, to the models and therefore rely for their 
meaning on the details and characteristics of those models and the theoreti¬ 
cal entities which constitute them” (1993:226; my italics). If I am interpret¬ 
ing Stoeger correctly, what he is suggesting is that it does not make sense to 
step outside of the language-game of science and declare that physical laws 
really exist in the universe. This is not to say that Stoeger is an anti-realist or 

Anderson: Physical Laws and Divine Agency 


an instrumentalist. What Stoeger is pointing out is that it is already part of 
the language-game of science to assume that scientific laws describe reality. 
To press beyond that assumption in order to assert that the scientific laws 
are really real threatens to pass beyond the bounds of sense. Hilary Putnam 
makes this point in the following manner: “We can learn and change and 
invent languages, and in them we can state truths; that is describing reality. 
If you say, ‘Yes, but it is not describing reality as it is in itself,’ you are saying 
nothing' (1995:40). There is no reason for scientists to postulate the exist¬ 
ence of transcendent laws of nature to which scientific laws more or less cor¬ 
respond. Positing such a relation of correspondence simply does not do any¬ 
thing for the scientist. 

The platonist effort to furnish the laws of science with metaphysical foun¬ 
dations may not do anything for the scientist qua scientist but it does have 
deleterious consequences for the scientist qua philosopher. The conviction 
that truth consists in the correspondence of scientific descriptions of the 
world to a “real world” that stands behind them often provokes a peculiar 
concern that scientific descriptions may not so correspond. Do we perhaps 
sense this concern at points in Davies’ texts? For example, in “The Intelligi¬ 
bility of Nature,” Davies argues against the cultural relativity of scientific dis¬ 
coveries. He does so by insisting that science really does describe nature 

Science really has given us a (partial) understanding of nature, and 
has led to genuinely new discoveries about the world, discoveries rep¬ 
resenting true facts that are just as true for other cultural groups as for 
the scientific community. The Z particle doesn’t exist only in the imagi¬ 
nation of scientists. It is simply there, for everybody, and it is almost 
certain that [the] Z particle would never have been discovered by a 
system of thought other than [the] sciences (Davies 1993:147). 

Davies poses a dichotomy between “cultural construct” and “true facts” that 
I suggest arises from his platonist interpretation of the laws of nature (cf. 
1993:147). Such a dichotomy illustrates the philosophical confusion that 
platonists encounter when they assert the transcendent reality of the laws of 
nature. The conviction that laws exist “out there” in a platonic realm inde¬ 
pendent of human inquiry leads many platonists to suppose that the goal of 
inquiry must be to foster progressively greater correspondence between sci¬ 
entific statements and that platonic realm. On the platonist interpretation. 



the only alternative to a correspondence theory of scientific discovery is 
cultural relativism, namely, the claim that scientific discoveries take place in 
particular cultural contexts and therefore exist “only in the imagination of 
scientists.” Thinking that they must choose between cultural relativism and 
metaphysical realism, platonists opt for the latter. The wonder is that mod¬ 
ern science has permitted us to hook on at least partially to the “real world.” 
Yet the adoption of a metaphysical realism forces platonists into several 
philosophically indefensible positions. 

For example, let us consider the plausibility of Davies’ claim that the Z 
particle is “simply there, for everybody.” How is a Z particle “there” for a non¬ 
scientist? The Z particle is certainly not “there” for us in the same way that 
tables and chairs are. Is Davies suggesting that the Z particle is more “there” 
than tables and chairs are? What would that mean? I think what Davies 
means to say is that according to a scientific description of the world the Z 
particle is real and causally interacts with other members of the world, in¬ 
cluding all human beings. The platonists’ temptation, however, is to move 
from that assertion, which is entirely legitimate, to the assertion that what 
scientists call “the Z particle” makes up part of the mind-independent fur¬ 
niture of the universe, which affords it greater reality than the entities de¬ 
scribed by other, non-scientific languages. The problem with such strong 
metaphysical realism is that the mind-independent furniture often winds up 
dissolving the reality of our everyday furniture (cf. Putnam i987:3f.). Davies 
does not make that move. He notes that we ascribe existence to objects in a 
plurality of ways (cf. Davies 1992:84-7). But not every platonist is as circum¬ 
spect as Davies is. 

I think that we catch sight of another philosophical consequence of 
Davies’ platonism when he leaves open the possibility that someone might 
make a scientific discovery through mystical insight. Davies speculates that 
certain individuals may have the ability to peer into the fabric of reality and 
make discoveries by pure intuition. For example, Davies discusses in The 
Mind of God the case of an Indian man who could write down mathemati¬ 
cal theorems without accompanying proofs. “It is very tempting to suppose 
that Ramanujan had a particular faculty that enabled him to view the math¬ 
ematical Mindscape directly and vividly, and pluck out ready-made results 
at will” (1992:154). It need not be debated whether it is possible for someone 
to have such a faculty to point out the difficulty into which such speculation 
brings Davies. If a figure like Ramanujan could peer into a mathematical 
Mindscape, he would nevertheless have to translate what he saw there into 

Anderson: Physical Laws and Divine Agency 


the notational conventions used by human mathematics to make his results 
comprehensible to them. In effect, he would have to translate the metaphysi¬ 
cal language of the Mindscape into the linguistic conventions that math¬ 
ematicians have developed over the course of history to do mathematics. 
Our awareness of the historical development of the conventions that math¬ 
ematicians use should call our attention to the problems of reference that 
any such translation would entail. How could Ramanujan be certain that the 
theorems he put forward in the human language of mathematics had trans¬ 
lated accurately the theorems that he had perceived in the metaphysical lan¬ 
guage of the Mindscape? 

Perhaps we may see the difficulties entailed by the necessity of transla¬ 
tion better if we look at them from another angle. Let us imagine that a 
group of mystics were to discover in a mystical insight the object that con¬ 
temporary scientists call “the Z particle.” How could the mystics and the 
scientists become aware of this amazing coincidence? How could they know 
whether they were talking about the same entity? I think reflection on such 
questions makes clear that there is no language-independent manner of 
verifying whether the mystics and the scientists are referring to the same 
thing. In order to determine whether the mystics are talking about the Z 
particle, the scientists would have to provide a scientific translation of the 
mystics’ mystical language. In the case of terms so embedded in theory, a 
straight-forward translation is hardly a realistic possibility. As W. v. O. Quine 
makes dear in Word and Object^ any such translation would be plagued by 
referential indeterminancy. Quine reflects on the insuperable difficulties that 
a linguist would encounter when translating a statement from contemporary 
physics into the language of a forest-dwelling people. 

Thus who would undertake to translate ‘Neutrinos lack mass’ into the 
jungle language? If anyone does, we may expect him to coin words or 
distort the usage of old ones. We may expect him to plead in extenua¬ 
tion that the natives lack the requisite concepts; also that they know 
too little physics. And he is right, except for the hint of there being 
some free-floating, linguistically neutral meaning which we capture, 
in ‘Neutrinos lack mass’, and the native cannot (Quine 1960:76). 

One need not hold a strong form of Quine’s indeterminacy of translation 
thesis to recognize that translating the mystics’ discovery as “the Z particle” 
would involve a high degree of indeterminacy. Because the languages are so 



different, neither the scientists nor the mystics could be certain that they 
were really talking about the same object. Thus, the assertion that “it is al¬ 
most certain that [the] Z particle would never have been discovered by a 
system of thought other than [the] sciences” remains unverifiable (Davies 


Metaphysical realism holds a strong attraction for many scientists despite 
the philosophical problems that it engenders. In fairness to Davies, we 
should note that Stoeger himself comes close at points to postulating the 
existence of epistemologically inaccessible transcendent laws. For example, 
Stoeger speculates on occasion that there are “underlying regularities and 
relationships of physical reality” that scientific inquiry cannot “uncover” but 
that we know must exist by the principle of sufficient reason (1993:210). He 
also suggests that scientists are incapable of determining whether their theo¬ 
ries reproduce the “structures in the real world as it is in itself’ (1993:216). 
Such speculations risk turning his theory about the ontological status of the 
laws into one that is metaphysically realist and epistemologically pessimis¬ 
tic. Stoeger would do better to restrict himself to considering the role that 
laws of science play in the language-game of science and to give up specu¬ 
lation about their approximation to the structures of “the real world as it is 
in itself’ apart from its scientific descriptions. 

Platonists might object that the abandonment of metaphysical realism 
must lead to a form of relativism. If we cannot speak about a real world apart 
from our descriptions, why should we think that there is a real world at all? 
Are we saying that what is true about the world in the language-game of sci¬ 
ence may not necessarily be true in other language-games? Does not human 
language become the arbiter of reality? No. If we adopted this interpretation, 
we would slide inevitably into the language-game relativism that many at¬ 
tribute to Richard Rorty. Relativism implies that we cannot criticize such 
language games from an external perspective. But we should not think that 
we may so easily split language-games apart in order to insulate the truth- 
values of any particular language-game from criticisms made by other lan¬ 
guage-games. Wittgenstein certainly did not develop the concept of a lan¬ 
guage-game to isolate different areas of knowledge from criticism. In fact, he 
thought that one could directly compare the value of different language- 
games. As Hilary Putnam writes: “Not only are there better and worse per¬ 
formances within a language game, but it is quite clear that Wittgenstein 
thinks that there are better and worse language games” (1995:37). Yet 
Wittgenstein did not think that the relative value of the statements put for- 

Anderson: Physical Laws and Divine Agency 


ward in different language-games could be adjudicated by a single language- 
external arbiter—such as “correspondence to reality” Putnam suggests that 
Wittgenstein’s use of the concept of language-games was an attempt to over¬ 
come the anxiety that troubles us into thinking that either we must provide 
a metaphysical foundation for our statements about the world or we must 
accept a form of relativism about the world (1992:177). In the end, 
Wittgenstein did not introduce the concept of a language-game to develop 
a new approach to epistemology; he used the concept of a language-game 
to study more closely the complex ways in which we use language to dis¬ 
simulate our knowledge about the world. 


Once we set aside questions about the ontological status of the scientific 
laws apart from the language-game of science and turn our attention to how 
scientists use scientific laws within the language-game of science, we find an 
unexpected measure of agreement between Davies and Stoeger. 

For example, Davies and Stoeger agree that scientific inquiry involves a 
high degree of abstraction. Davies acknowledges that scientists disregard 
certain phenomena as “noise in the data” in their search for scientific laws 
(1993:149). “The job of the physicist,” Davies writes, “is to uncover the pat¬ 
terns in nature and try to fit them to simple mathematical schemes” 
(1992:31). The physicist is concerned with discerning patterns and not with 
accounting for all the details. For his part, Stoeger writes that “the theories 
and ‘laws’ of the sciences—no matter how well-confirmed—are always ide¬ 
alized in some way” (1993:214). Like Davies, Stoeger does not think that this 
represents a flaw in the scientific method. According to Stoeger, scientists are 
not out to provide a complete account of reality; their aim is to provide an 
“idealized, abstract and simplified” model of reality (1993:232). For this rea¬ 
son, it does not trouble scientists that the phenomenological data that sup¬ 
ports scientific theories does not always conform to scientific laws 
(1993:224). On Stoeger’s account, scientists do not intend to account for all 
of reality with their scientific laws; they aspire to give an account of certain 
well-defined aspects of reality. 

Davies and Stoeger also agree that the laws of science alone do not det¬ 
ermine the future course of the universe. Davies cites Werner Heisenberg’s 
discovery of indeterminacy at the quantum level as proof that scientific laws 



cannot predict future events on the basis of present conditions with com¬ 
plete accuracy (1992:30). He explains, “Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle 
puts paid to the notion that the present determines the future exactly” 
(1992:30). Stephen Hawking articulates the philosophical importance of 
Heisenberg’s discovery in the following manner: “The uncertainty principle 
signaled an end to Laplace’s dream of a theory of science, a model of the 
universe that would be completely deterministic: one certainly cannot pre¬ 
dict future events exactly if one cannot even measure the present state of the 
universe precisely” (1988:55). In a different vein, Stoeger notes that many 
scientific theories require the introduction of certain “indeterminates” that 
“the theory or law does not specify” (1993:215). One might also expect him 
to argue further that the idealized character of scientific laws prevents us 
from ascribing to them the prescriptive force that such accurate predictions 
about the future would require them to have. In any event, it is clear that the 
use of scientific laws to predict the future is not justified by the scientific lan¬ 
guage-game itself. The dream of putting scientific laws to such an end be¬ 
longs to science fiction writers rather than to physical scientists. 

While Davies and Stoeger both agree that scientific laws cannot predict 
the outcome of all events in the universe in part because, as Davies writes, 
“the universe really is indeterministic at its most basic level” (1992:31), they 
do not think that the introduction of indeterminacy in scientific theories 
renders the notion of scientific laws defunct. “There is a difference,” Davies 
writes, “between the role of chance in quantum mechanics and the unre¬ 
stricted chaos of a lawless universe” (1992:31). Davies argues that the uncer¬ 
tainties that exist at the quantum level ordinarily do not ordinarily affect the 
behavior of events occurring at the non-quantum level (1992:31). Stoeger 
makes a related point. “Our ability to idealize and construct successful mod¬ 
els and laws is due to the fact that there are levels of reality at which the 
dominant behavior of systems is simple and uncomplicated” (1993:219). The 
fact that quantum effects do not ordinarily disrupt the behavior of physical 
systems above the quantum level is important to Davies; for this reason he 
does not believe that his acceptance of the uncertainty principle compels 
him to retract his talk about the laws of nature governing events in the uni¬ 
verse. Yet one wonders if Davies’s commitment to the uncertainty principle 
does not really undermine his platonism. When Davies writes that the “sta¬ 
tistical lawfulness” of quantum mechanical effects “implies that, on a mac¬ 
roscopic scale where quantum effects are usually not noticeable, nature 
seems to conform to deterministic laws,” is he not admitting that what sci- 

Anderson: Physical Laws and Divine Agency 


entists refer to as laws are not always lawful in the strict sense of the word 
(1992,31; my italics)? In other words, is he not allowing that quantum effects 
may sometimes become noticeable on a macroscopic level— disrupting the 
otherwise seemingly deterministic laws of nature when they do? He remarks 
that the necessity of including such “indeterminates” in scientific theories 
is “another indication of the incomplete, approximate and descriptive char¬ 
acter of even the best theories and laws” (1993:215). 

Finally, Davies and Stoeger both concur that the laws of science cannot 
fully explain the complexity of the universe. In other words, neither supports 
the concept of reductionism. Complex physical systems exist that exhibit 
behavior that is consistent with but not explainable by the laws of physics 
(cf. Davies 1992:182). Davies writes: “We must reject the idea that a physical 
system, such as a rock or a cloud or a person, is nothing but a collection of 
atoms, and recognize instead the existence of many different levels of struc¬ 
ture” (1992:182). Davies defends the idea that there may be “‘higher-level’ 
laws associated with the organizational properties of complex systems” that 
are not reducible to physical laws (1992:169). Stoeger accepts this idea—but 
he pushes it farther than Davies does. Stoeger contends that the use of the 
concept of law in these “higher-level” sciences challenges the concept of law 
in “lower-level” sciences such as physics. “Casting our glance back to the 
physical sciences from this perspective,” Stoeger writes, “we realize that the 
seeds of the unraveling of our certainty and our understanding of the laws 
of nature are already growing in the theories and models we construct there” 
(1993:222). In other words, biologists and other “higher-level” scientists 
know that what they refer to as “laws” are not lawful in the strict sense. Yet 
this does not trouble such scientists for they use the concept of law to con¬ 
struct loose models for the behavior of their systems. Stoeger suggests that 
physicists employ the concept of law in an analogous manner. However, 
physicists slide into thinking that physical laws are truly lawful only because 
the systems that they study are so much less complex. 

In the end, we must conclude with Stoeger that scientists do not assume 
in actual scientific practice that the models they create capture the full com¬ 
plexity of reality. Good scientists recognize, in the words of William lames, 
that “experience.. .has ways of boiling over, and making us correct our pre¬ 
sent formulas” (1987:583). On the basis of his observations of the use of 
scientific laws within language-game of science, Stoeger contends that what 
scientists call a scientific law is rightly regarded as a “tight, detailed and spe¬ 
cific description' of a physical regularity and not as a prescriptive law of na- 



ture (1993:225). Stoeger summarizes his position by stating that “the laws of 
nature are impoverished but very useful and reassuring reflections of the 
rich and interconnected regularities which drive our evolving and life-giv¬ 
ing universe” (1993:234). If platonists do not accept such conclusions, it is 
likely not because they think that constructivists misunderstand the way 
that scientists make use of the laws in their scientific investigations. Rather, 
it is because they are held in the grip of what Wittgenstein would call a meta¬ 
physical “picture.” The danger of that metaphysical picture is that it may 
color and distort our understanding of the function of laws beyond the lan¬ 
guage-game of science. 


In the preceding two sections, we have demonstrated that the platonic con¬ 
ception of the laws is philosophically problematic and empirically unwar¬ 
ranted. But many theologians who have developed models for divine agency 
in the world have adopted the platonic interpretation of the laws of nature. 
This assumption profoundly affects their understanding of divine agency. 
On a platonic interpretation of the laws, the agency of God and laws of na¬ 
ture are easily confounded. To understand why this is so, one need only ask 
oneself the following question:If the laws of science prescribe the outcome 
of all events in the universe, what role is there for God to play? What becomes 
of divine agency? 

The platonic interpretation of the laws either denies divine agency or 
welds divine agency to the laws of science. Theologians who wish to pre¬ 
serve some form of divine providence within this model wind up asserting 
that God creates and maintains the laws of science. God achieves God’s ends 
by working through the laws of science. The problem with this proposal is 
that it denies the freedom and personality of God. According to a platonic 
interpretation of the laws, scientific laws cannot be abrogated or suspended. 
God has no choice but to obey the laws God created. This view threatens, in 
turn, to render divine agency an unnecessary hypothesis in the physical 
world. According to such deistic models, Nancey Murphy explains, “God’s 
contribution must either be a rubber-stamp approval of whatever will hap¬ 
pen naturally, or else God must intervene. But interventionism is ruled out 
as unscientific and un-Enlightened, so the world must roll along its deter¬ 
mined or statistically regular course—with God’s approval” (1989:239). Ac- 

Anderson: Physical Laws and Divine Agency 


cording to such models of divine agency, to say that God acts in the world is 
simply to decorate the laws of nature with theological trappings. Any sub¬ 
stantial notion of God’s agency is swallowed up by the laws of nature them¬ 

Some contemporary physicists have turned from deistic speculations to 
apotheosize the laws of nature themselves. For example, Davies remarks, 
“Curiously, the laws have been invested with many of the qualities that were 
formally attributed to the God from which they were once supposed to have 
come” (1992:82). He argues that scientists consider the laws of nature to be 
universal, absolute, eternal, omnipotent and, “in a loose sense,” omniscient 
(1992:82-3). While Davies’ manner of straightforwardly endowing the laws 
of nature with divine attributes is rhetorically striking, I think it reflects a 
belief among many scientists that the laws of nature manifest the divine plan 
for the universe. Such a belief rests at the basis of Stephen Hawking’s claim 
that the discovery of “a complete theory” of physics would reveal the “mind 
of God” (1988:175). Hawking evidently makes this claim because he sees no 
distance between a knowledge of the laws of nature and a knowledge of di¬ 
vine decrees. On his view, scientists may literally read the mind of God off 
of the laws of nature. 

The theological dangers of associating God’s will and the laws of nature 
should not be overlooked. Once one accepts this identification, one cannot 
avoid drawing the conclusion that God causes every event in the world. Of 
course, Christian theologians affirm a doctrine of God’s universal provi¬ 
dence. Christians affirm that God is in control of the world’s events. But what 
do such affirmations mean? The Bible relates subtle, dialectical stories about 
divine providence. Consider, for example, the death of Jesus Christ on the 
cross. Did God will that God’s Son die on the cross? I believe that one must 
answer this question with both a no and a yes. On the one hand, God did 
not will the situation of human sinfulness that Christ entered. God did not 
will that the world would conspire against God’s Son and crucify him. On 
the other hand, God did will that human salvation would come through the 
death of Christ on the cross. God did will through Christ’s death on the cross 
to overcome the sinfulness of humanity and to prove the unending faithful¬ 
ness of God’s love. According to the scriptures, therefore, there can be no 
possibility of straightforwardly reading God’s intentions off of the bare 
physical event of the crucifixion. It is not adequate simply to assert that God 
caused God’s Son to die on the cross. We must relate that event to the com¬ 
plicated story of God’s relationship with God’s chosen people and with the 



world to understand God’s agency in it. The identification of the laws of 
nature and divine decrees encourages us to make simplistic assumptions 
about divine agency in the world. On this view, the divine decrees for our 
lives can be discovered in earthquakes, hurricanes, disease and all other 
forms of natural disaster. We may not know why God set up the laws so that 
such events take place. But we do know that God causes such events to take 
place. It is hard not to infer that God also wants us to suffer through these 
events. The conflation of the divine will with the laws of nature produces a 
more or less deistic conception of divine providence, which is far removed 
from biblical reflections on God’s agency in human suffering and natural 
evil. The deistic conception encourages submission to the inscrutable and 
unalterable will of God. In the end, human beings can only regard that God 
as a tyrant and an enemy of human life. 

A constructivist interpretation of the laws avoids the problems of con¬ 
flating divine decrees and laws of nature by denying that scientific laws are 
transcendent entities that prescribe events in the universe. On a constructiv¬ 
ist interpretation, God has the freedom either to act in conformity with the 
regularities of nature or to act in an “irregular” fashion. A constructivist 
model allows that God may create special exceptions to the regular order of 
events. The descriptive character of the laws of science means that knowl¬ 
edge of the laws can enable scientists to point out only what is singular or 
unique—not what is impossible. In other words, scientists can give no a 
priori reason why God might not cause something extraordinary to take 
place. The constructivist model also leaves open the possibility for particu¬ 
lar providence as well as general providence. On this model, God has the 
freedom to act differently at different times and places. 

Of course, the constructivist position still leaves us with the problem of 
theodicy. Once we allow that the laws of science do not constrain God’s be¬ 
havior in the universe, we are left facing the question why God should 
choose to contravene natural regularities at certain times and refrain from 
contravening them at other times. But it should be pointed out that this is a 
profoundly biblical question. The biblical witness never denies that it lies 
within God’s freedom to act to alter the course of events. The biblical authors 
assume that possibility by questioning and petitioning God to alter God’s 
decrees. The manner in which God responds to the pleas of God’s people is 
itself a subject of intensive debate within the Bible. Indeed, a primary advan¬ 
tage of a constructivist interpretation of the laws from a theological point 
of view is that it does not provide a scientific rationalization for the prob- 

Anderson: Physical Laws and Divine Agency 


lem of evil. Unlike the platonist position, which suggests that God does not 
have the freedom to choose between different courses of action and there¬ 
fore cannot act to prevent evil events, the constructivist position suggests 
that God has the freedom to act in “irregular” ways. A constructivist inter¬ 
pretation prevents us from falling into the platonist’s temptation to con¬ 
found the divine decrees and the laws of science. In the end, the constructiv¬ 
ist position forces us to look elsewhere—for Christians, to theology—to 
contemplate the question why God does not act to prevent evil events. 


The final problem we face in this paper is whether it is possible to recognize 
God’s action in the world. Once we have established that the laws of science 
do not disallow the possibility of special divine agency, how may we perceive 
that God is acting? The scope of this paper does not allow for a full answer 
to this question; our main purpose has been to illustrate that talk of laws in 
the physical sciences does not imply the rejection of a robust conception of 
divine agency. Yet we should recognize that merely opening a window for 
God’s agency in the universe does not entail that God is an agent in the uni¬ 
verse. In fact, David Hume presents a strong argument against our capacity 
to recognize God’s special agency. Hume leaves open the possibility that 
God may contravene the regularities of nature but he thinks that our collec¬ 
tive experience of natural regularities prevents us from countenancing such 
irregularities or ascribing them to divine agency. A brief examination of 
Hume’s arguments against miracles again shows, I think, the fruitfulness of 
the constructivist interpretation of scientific laws for Christian theology. 

In An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, Hume argues that mir¬ 
acles contravene the natural regularities that form the basis of scientific laws. 
He defines a miracle as “a violation of the laws of nature” (1975:114). Hume 
recognizes that unusual events take place in the world. For example, he al¬ 
lows that it is possible that reports about a darkness covering the earth at the 
beginning of the seventeenth century may be true if substantiated by 
enough experiential evidence (1975:127-8). But Hume also assumes that 
such extraordinary events will prove pliable to scientific treatment. What 
about claims concerning irregular, extraordinary events for which scientists 
cannot account? Hume admits that the character of scientific laws, which he 
considers to be descriptions of natural regularities that have been estab- 

i 8 


lished through inductive observation, means that he cannot provide an a 
priori argument against the possibility of such extraordinary events taking 
place. But he thinks that he can produce a solid a posteriori argument against 
them. Hume reasons that the natural regularities we describe as the laws of 
science are so well established in our experience that we must disallow any 
contravening evidence that they might be abrogated from time to time. 

Nothing is esteemed a miracle, if it ever happen in the common course 
of nature. It is no miracle that a man, seemingly in good health, should 
die on a sudden; because such a kind of death, though more unusual 
than any other, has yet been frequently observed to happen. But it is a 
miracle, that a dead man should come to life; because that has never 
been observed in any age or country. There must, therefore, be a uni¬ 
form experience against every miraculous event, otherwise the event 
would not merit that appellation. And as a uniform experience amounts 
to a proof, there is here a direct and full proof, from the nature of the 
fact, against the existence of any miracle... (Hume 1975:115) 

In other words, to claim that an event is miraculous is, on Hume’s account, 
just another way of saying that that event is unsubstantiated by the collec¬ 
tive evidence of our common experience. A singular event that disrupts an 
otherwise uniform regularity should be disregarded as illusory. Thus, Hume 
contends that the concept of miraculous events is inherently self-defeating. 

Does Hume’s argument against miracles remain valid in the light of our 
study of scientific laws? What does our interpretation of the role that scien¬ 
tific laws play in the scientific language-game imply for the possibility of 
recognizing miracles? I think there is good reason to suppose that the for¬ 
going constructivist interpretation of scientific laws removes a great deal of 
the force of Hume’s argument. 

First, the discovery of quantum indeterminacy and the development of 
chaos theory call into question Hume’s right to define a miracle as “a viola¬ 
tion of the laws of nature” (1975:114). A wide gap has opened between regu¬ 
larities that we experience “in the common course of nature” and the regu¬ 
larities described by physical laws. In many cases, scientists may now pro¬ 
vide a scientific account for events that non-scientists would consider to 
contravene the “common course of nature.” For example, Hilary Putnam 
writes that he can think of any number of physical possibilities that would 
explain why a cube of sugar might not dissolve in water. Such an event would 

Anderson: Physical Laws and Divine Agency 


not necessarily violate physical laws, even though he notes that there is “no 
reason to think that all the various abnormal conditions (including bizarre 
quantum mechanical states, bizarre local fluctuations in the space-time, 
etc.) under which sugar would not dissolve if placed in water could be 
summed up in a closed formula in the language of fundamental physics” 
(1987:11). In any case, the set of events that scientists would consider to be 
true violations of scientific laws has become far smaller than the set of events 
that non-scientists would consider miraculous. In other words, many events 
that appear “miraculous” against the background of the collective experi¬ 
ence of humankind may be perfectly consonant with the laws of science. If 
scientists are capable of providing scientific explanations of these events, 
which involve appeal to the highly-refined descriptions that constitute sci¬ 
entific laws, should we not also be willing to accept the veracity of such “mi¬ 
raculous” events? Yet to accept the veracity of these “miraculous” events 
would contravene our everyday experience of natural regularities. Should 
we base the concept of the miraculous on scientific laws or common expe¬ 
rience? To make a decision for either disjunct would require a redefinition 
of the Humean concept of miracle. 

Second, Hume grants the laws of nature too broad a scope in his defini¬ 
tion of miracles. Hume writes as if scientific inquiry aims to discern laws 
that are complete and comprehensive descriptions of natural regularities. 
But as Broeger writes, “[T]he laws are not always obeyed without fail—but 
obeyed often enough so that the instances which deviate from them follow 
no understandable pattern or can be suspected of being due to outside 
influences, improper isolation of the experiment or observations, etc” 
(Stoeger 1993:224). While scientists may notice that such violations occur 
from time to time, they typically ignore these irregularities when construct¬ 
ing scientific laws unless they discern that these violations conform to some 
regular pattern. But do scientists feel any need to claim that these violations 
are illusory? Might it not be possible that another language-game might or¬ 
ganize such anomalies into a discernable pattern? What Hume failed to con¬ 
sider is that we may organize the regularities that we encounter in ordinary 
experience according to dilTerent frames of reference. Hume did not recog¬ 
nize that no single conceptual language can exhaustively describe all the 
patterns that human beings experience in the world. Against Hume, I argue 
that we must use a plurality of conceptual languages to describe fully the 
richness of the regularities that we discover in the world. The richness of the 
world is such that I do not think we can describe its regularities through any 



single conceptual language. Physicists describe a crucial set of regularities 
through physical laws but physical laws do not describe the world’s regulari¬ 
ties exhaustively. Thus, Hume’s identification of the regularities that we en¬ 
counter in common experience with the laws of nature that proves unten¬ 
able and reductionistic. 

We should not allow these objections to Hume’s arguments against 
miracles to obscure a point of central importance to our study: Hume’s ar¬ 
gument illustrates that we cannot recognize God’s actions in our lives 
without possessing a corresponding conceptual framework. He illustrates 
that we have no warrant to regard so-called “miraculous” events as any¬ 
thing other than hoaxes, improbable physical occurrences or unaccount¬ 
able flukes of nature unless we can interpret such events within a frame¬ 
work that fits them into a broader conceptual pattern. In other words, 
Hume shows us that miracles are not self-identifying. A human being who 
experiences an extraordinary event cannot identify that event as “miracu¬ 
lous” unless he or she can fit that event into the broader story of God’s in¬ 
teractions with human beings. In my view, the theological language-game 
provides the framework for Christians to discover the patterns and norms 
underlying divine agency. Of course, the patterns theology describes are 
quite different than the regularities described by the physical sciences; they 
stand closer to the patterns discerned in disciplines like psychology and 
sociology. In any case, the theological language-game organizes miracles 
into a pattern that makes sense to human beings who know the story. With¬ 
out the language-game of theology, therefore, Christians could not recog¬ 
nize any event—even so-called “miraculous” events—as the consequence 
of divine agency. 


We must now ask ourselves what we have learned from our study of the sci¬ 
entific laws and divine agency. The conclusion our study has pointed us to 
is that we cannot expect that scientists will ever grant us a theory of every¬ 
thing. Scientific inquiry may provide us with an excellent account of certain 
aspects of reality; it cannot, however, provide us with an account of every 
aspect of reality. To Stephen Hawking’s claim that a complete set of scien¬ 
tific laws would reveal the “mind of God” (1988:175), we must answer that at 
most these laws would reveal God’s intentions for the very small and the very 

Anderson: Physical Laws and Divine Agency 


large. In sum, the physical laws described by the physical sciences do not 
reveal or determine God’s intentions for human beings. In order to discern 
the character of God’s interactions with human beings, we must have a 
different way of structuring and organizing our knowledge of the world. I 
believe that it is a task of theology to create the broader conceptual frame¬ 
work against which Christians may discern divine agency in the world. In 
the end, theologians should recognize that the idealized and constructive 
character of scientific laws permits them to uphold a robust conception of 
divine agency without undue fear that scientific laws will disallow or con¬ 
tradict their assertions. 


Davies, Paul 

1992 The Mind of God: The Scientific Basis for a Rational World. 
New York: Simon and Schuster. 

1993 “The Intelligibility of Nature.” In Quantum Cosmology and 
the Laws of Nature: Scientific Perspectives on Divine Actions^ 
ed. Robert Russell, et al., 143-62. Vatican City: Vatican 
Observatory Publications. 

Hawking, Stephen 

1988 A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes. 

New York: Bantam Books. 

Hume, David 

1975 Enquiries Concerning Human Understanding and Concerning 

the Principles of Morals. Third Edition. Ed. P. H. Nidditch. 
Oxford: Clarendon Press. 

James, William 

1987 “Pragmatism.” In William James: Writings 1902 — 1910, The 

Library of America, 479-624. New York: Literary Classics of 
the United States. 



Loewer, Barry 

1995 “Law of Nature.” In A Companion to Metaphysics, Blackwell 

Companions to Philosophy, ed. Jaegwon Kim and Ernest 
Sosa, 266-8. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers. 

Murphy, Nancey C. 


“Does Prayer Make a Difference?” In Cosmos as Creation: 
Theology and Science in Consonance, ed. Ted Peters, 235-46. 
Nashville: Abingdon Press. 

Putnam, Hilary 



The Many Faces of Realism. LaSalle: Open Court. 

Renewing Philosophy. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. 
Pragmatism: An Open Question. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. 

Quine, Willard van Orman 

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KOINONIA XI/l (1999) 23-48 

Towards a Postmodern Methodology 
for Pastoral Counseling 



Referring to rationality within practical theology, Richard Osmer 
states that “the science and theology debate is yet to be fully taken up in 
practical theology” (1995:21). He believes that there is widespread consen¬ 
sus that we stand at the end of the era in which practical theology took 
shape, since new and much richer understandings of rationality have begun 
to emerge. These statements might come as a surprise to a discipline such 
as pastoral theology, for pastoral theology may want to claim interdiscipli¬ 
nary activity as integral to its self-understanding. The clinical application of 
pastoral theology, pastoral counseling, can hardly be envisioned without the 
use of psychological insights (Patton 1990:851). 

If Osmer’s statements have value, and I believe they do, serious questions 
can be raised regarding pastoral theology and pastoral counseling’s interdis¬ 
ciplinary nature. What understanding of rationality lies within current pas¬ 
toral theological methodologies? What is the nature of the “science and the¬ 
ology debate” that is currently operable within practical theology? More 
specifically, what rationality currently operates within pastoral counseling? 
What reasons may be given to view the current interdisciplinary methodol¬ 
ogy and practice of pastoral counseling (or practical theology) as trouble¬ 
some? I believe that pastoral theology and the practice of pastoral counsel¬ 
ing seem to be almost oblivious to postmodern rationality as a source of 
critique and affirmation of current interdisciplinary activity. In this essay, I 
want to address this very vacuity by examining Calvin O. Schrag’s under¬ 
standing of postmodern rationality. 

A preliminary working definition of the constructs “rationality” and “the 
postmodern or postmodernism” is central to this essay. It is important to 



mention that both terms are difficult to define and different scholars will 
provide diverse definitions. In his work Rationality in Science, Religion and 
Everyday Life, Mikael Stenmark makes the distinction between realistic 
(possible, responsible) and idealized (impossible, irresponsible) models of 
rationality (Stenmark 1995^5^6), The difference between the two rationali¬ 
ties mentioned is expressed in the axiom of reasonable demand: one can¬ 
not reasonably demand of a person what a person cannot (possibly) do. For 
Stenmark, scientific forms of rationality are “too idealized” and utopian to 
apply them to actual human beings. He opts for a realistic model of ratio¬ 
nality, taking into account the beliefs, actions and evaluations of human be¬ 
ings. Stenmark’s argument moves away from epistemic beliefs (or epistemic 
foundations) as rational, “self-evident propositions that are true^ and whose 
truth is clear to anyone who properly understands them” (Brown 1988:40). 
I believe that such models of idealized rationality are common to pastoral 
theology and pastoral care and counseling. This essay accepts a realistic un¬ 
derstanding of rationality. The shift away from epistemic foundations places 
the focus on the agents of rationality and an emphasis on communicative 

Jean-Francois Lyotard, the well-known scholar of postmodernism, de¬ 
scribes postmodernism as being part of modernism,, but which unlike mod¬ 
ernism, refuses to invoke “the unrepresentable as presentation itself, refuses 
the consensus of taste permitting a common experience of nostalgia for the 
impossible” (1992:12,15). Both Stenmark (utopian rationality) and Lyotard 
(nostalgia) want to move away from the impossible toward the possible, a 
move from idealistic rationality to realistic rationality. In this move, Lyotard 
states that the postmodern acts as an extension of the modern and not as 
something existing separate from the modern. Hence, there is a to-and-fro 
movement between the modern and the postmodern. 

Although Lyotard and Stenmark seem? to agree as to the nature of post- 
modernity, postmodernism' is not a unified philosophy. Calvin O. Schrag 
mentions that anyone attempting to provide a sketch of postmodernism has 
to contend with “a somewhat curious diversity o-f portraits” (Schrag 1992:13). 
He points out that in the many discussions of postmodernism, the voca¬ 
bulary often shifts from “the post-modern” to “postmodernity” to 
“postmodernism” without dear distinctions of what, if anything, is at stake 
in such shifts. Schrag also' states that within the diversity of portraits (of 
postmtodernism;) that exist, two central attitudies, one d>ec©n<struGtive and 
one constructive,.can be identified. Schrag opts for a constructive approach 

Hamman: Postmodern Methodology for Pastoral Counseling 

to postmodern rationality, believing that discernment and decisions are 
possible while being postmodern. 

Consistent with the postmodern emphasis on contextuality, the con¬ 
structs mentioned cannot be fully defined without considering a specific 
context. Another factor, which complicates any attempt at providing a 
definition for postmodernism, is postmodernity’s interdisciplinary nature. 
Postmodernism provides postmodern architecture, postmodern art, post¬ 
modern literature, postmodern politics, postmodern theology, postmodern 
science, postmodern culture studies, postmodern philosophy, and more. 
Can postmodern pastoral counseling be added to this list? This essay views 
postmodernism as a cultural attitude or a certain perspective, and an assem¬ 
blage of discursive practices that can take many forms. Postmodernism has 
no single philosopher as its founder, nor does any school of scholars faith¬ 
ful to the doctrines of postmodernism exist. As John E. Thiel states it: “At 
most, one can speak of a commitment to a style of philosophizing shared 
by a number of thinkers, and often in very different ways” (Thiel 1994:1). 

In the first section of this essay, I will discuss two central aspects of 
postmodern rationality. The two aspects (and they are not the only two) are 
a move away from the idealization of metanarratives (identified by Jean- 
Francois Lyotard) and the importance of discernment (described by Harold 
Brown). The two aspects mentioned “join hands” where discernment takes 
place within communities to produce local narratives. 

In the second section, I will identify two pastoral counseling methodolo¬ 
gies that place the emphasis on pastoral counseling's bipolar or bilingual 
nature to describe the interdisciplinary activity. Both models address the in¬ 
terdisciplinary question inherent to pastoral counseling by using epistemic 
foundations. The pastoral theological models of the Dutch scholar Gerben 
Heitink and the American scholar, Deborah van Deusen Hunsinger, are ex¬ 
amples of European (Continental) and American thought within the Re¬ 
formed tradition. Although Heitink and Van Deusen Hunsinger offer quite 
diverse perspectives on how to address the interdisciplinary nature of pas¬ 
toral counseling, similarities between their models, such as a bipolar struc¬ 
ture, will be identified. 

In the third section of this essay, I will discuss Calvin O. Schrag's model 
of transversal reasoning. Schrag ofiPers a model of rationality that takes the 
critique of postmodern rationality seriously without falling into rampant 
deconstruction and pluralism. I will argue that Sehrag’s understanding of 
transversal rationality has implications for a postmodern methodology for 



pastoral counseling. The “lenses” through which two current pastoral meth¬ 
odologies will examined at are their use of epistemic foundations, the mod¬ 
els’ use of and functioning as metanarratives, and their view of discernment. 



The construct metanarratives received much prominence in Jean-Francois 
Lyotard’s work. The Postmodern Condition. Lyotard identified certain 
metanarratives that marked modernity: the progressive emancipation of 
reason, freedom, and labor, as well as the enrichment of all humanity 
through the progress of capitalist technoscience. Another modern 
metanarrative Lyotard identified that is important for Christian theology is 
the metanarrative of Christianity, understood as the salvation of creatures 
through conversion of souls to the Christian narrative of love (i984:xxxiv). 

For Lyotard, metanarratives are not myths in the sense of fables that 
would be mythical. However, like myths, metanarratives have the function 
of legitimating social and political institutions and practices, laws, ethics 
and ways of thinking. Unlike myths, metanarratives find legitimacy in the 
realization of an “Idea.” This “Idea,” be it freedom, socialism, or Christian 
love, has legitimating value because it is seen as being universal in nature, 
guiding all of human reality. However, postmodernity challenges the “Idea.” 
Schrag quotes Lyotard as stating that “I would argue that the project of mo¬ 
dernity (the realization of universality) has not been forsaken or forgotten 
but destroyed, liquidated” (1992:24). Lyotard believes that technoscience is 
the sustaining metanarrative within the modern paradigm. The victory of 
technoscience gives the impression of completing modernity, although it 
also means the destruction of modernity. A person’s mastery over the ob¬ 
jects generated by contemporary science and technology does not bring 
greater freedom, more public education, or even greater distribution of 
wealth, but rather the contrary. 

Within the postmodern society, no metanarratives can be used with a 
legitimizing function. For Lyotard, the challenge of postmodernity has to do 
with the fostering of an attitude that he describes in terms of “an incredu¬ 
lity toward metanarratives,” a “sensitivity to differences,” “tolerat[ing] the in¬ 
commensurable,” learning to live with “the inventor’s paralogy,” and “wag¬ 
ing a war on totality” (i984:xxiv). The postmodern challenge calls us to live 
with local (contextual) narratives where meaning and reference are not situ- 

Hamman: Postmodern Methodology for Pastoral Counseling 

ated in epistemology (or beliefs as metanarratives), but rather in commu¬ 
nicative praxis (hermeneutics) and in rational agents. 

Thinking in terms of incredulity, disbelief and skepticism toward meta¬ 
narratives might be foreign to pastoral counseling. However, the postmod¬ 
ern challenge to pastoral counseling is to move away from legitimating 
metanarratives. This is especially important in interdisciplinary dialogue 
where metanarratives may be “despised” for being remnants of modernity 
(Schrag 1992:24). The use of metanarratives as epistemic foundations within 
pastoral counseling will be discussed in the next section. It will suffice here 
to state that the postmodern challenge to rationality does not leave the 
metanarratives within pastoral counseling untouched. 

The second characteristic of postmodernism that I would like to iden¬ 
tify is the centrality of discernment within postmodernism. Harold Brown 
calls upon the importance of judgment or discernment as an integral part 
of rationality in his work. Rationality. He defines judgment as “the ability to 
evaluate a situation, assess evidence, and come to a reasonable decision 
without following rules” (1988:137). Judgment involves decisions which are 
based on prior knowledge gained, and which are not arbitrary, although 
decisions are reached without following rules. 

Brown identifies three important characteristics of (postmodern) judg¬ 
ment. They are: 1) judgments are not made by following rules; 2) judgments 
are fallible; and 3) judgments are made by individuals who are in command 
of an appropriate body of information that is relevant to the judgment in 
question (1988:138). Maintaining the relationship between the modern and 
the postmodern. Brown says that rules still exist and that rules are still used, 
but in a different way. Judgment comes into play especially where a decision 
needs to be made between a number of competing rules, or alternatively 
where familiar rules fail. 

Brown warns against the danger of viewing fallible judgments as “base¬ 
less.” With this warning he challenges deconstructive postmodernism. 
Brown states that: 

If we give up this demand [of indubitability] the concept of judgment 
provides the basis for a new look at the problem of [epistemic] foun¬ 
dations, for we do indeed stop epistemic regresses, even though we do 
not do so because we have reached a firm foundation. Rather, we stop 
either because we judge that we need go no further in the present con¬ 
text, or because we have reached the point at which we have been trained 



to Stop. This leaves us with a starting point, but a tentative and fallible 
one that is open to reconsideration under appropriate circumstances 

Judgment is not a form of dogmatism. There is no incompatibility between 
accepting a set of fallible claims for substantial periods of time, and being 
prepared to reconsider them when there are relevant reasons to do so. This 
reconsideration will be a matter of professional judgment by those who have 
mastered the relevant body of information. The information used for judg¬ 
ment consists of background information as well as a body of information 
relevant to the case at hand. As expertise in an area is needed to be informed, 
not everyone can exercise reasonable judgment on every topic. Further 
more, expertise does not guarantee success, as errors may occur and experts 
may disagree. Where experts disagree, a person must live with the diversity 
of opinions (the inventor’s paralogy). Brown’s interpretation of discernment 
indicates an understanding of rationality that moves away from the classi¬ 
cal understanding of rationality which stated that only infallible methods 
are of any cognitive significance. 

The importance of judgment within postmodern rationality supports 
Stenmark’s view that rationality is no longer an issue of conceptual analy¬ 
sis, a matter of logic or a set of beliefs. Rationality is not an issue of proposi¬ 
tions, beliefs or theories, something a property may have or lack, but an is¬ 
sue of discernment strategies and thus a human characteristic (Stenmark 
1995^1). Discernment is a skill that can be acquired through training or 
experience (as practical wisdom), and something that can (and should) be 
cultivated in the pursuit of knowledge. Discernment and judgment are skills 
that challenge the rule-governed nature of modern rationality. 

The shift of rationality away from theoretical propositions to an activity 
of persons introduces an important element that plays an integral role in not 
only discernment, but also in the establishment of knowledge, This element 
is the pQw^r-kmwk 4 g§ relationship. Michel Foucault’s politics of power pro¬ 
vides a portrait of a power-knowledge nexus that pervades personal and 
social existence. For Foucault, the human subject, with its strategies for 
achieving knowledge, is a product of power, Foucault summarizes the im¬ 
portance of the power-knowledge relation in the following words: 

We should admit rather that power produces knowledge (and not sim¬ 
ply by encouraging it because it serves power or by applying it be- 

Hamman: Postmodern Methodology for Pastoral Counseling 29 

cause it is useful); that power and knowledge directly imply one an¬ 
other; that there is no power relation without the correlative constitu¬ 
tion of a field of knowledge, nor any knowledge that does not presup¬ 
pose and constitute at the same time power relations. These ‘power- 
knowledge relations’ are to be analyzed, therefore, not on the basis of a 
subject of knowledge who is or is not free in relation to the power 
system, but on the contrary, the subject who knows, the objects to be 
known and the modalities of knowledge must be regarded as so many 
effects of these fundamental implications of power-knowledge and their 
historical transformation (1977:27-8). 

Discernment takes into account that the power-knowledge relationship, 
denied by modern rationality and modern rationality’s focus on proposi¬ 
tions and beliefs, is an integral part of all knowledge. No discernment can 
take place without power relations being involved, and no proposition ex¬ 
ists without it being formed in a specific power relation. By identifying the 
relationship between power and knowledge, Foucault introduces an aspect 
central to any discernment process as power is situated not only in knowl¬ 
edge but also in the agent of knowledge. 

The importance of judgment or discernment for pastoral counseling is 
clear in that pastoral counseling cannot take place without discernment. 
Judgment is even more complex within pastoral counseling where theo¬ 
logical insights as well as psychological insights determine the discern¬ 
ment strategies. The importance of the power-knowledge relationship also 
challenges pastoral theology and pastoral counseling, working within the 
framework of “divine authority,” to take the power-knowledge relationship 
seriously. After the introduction of two pastoral theologies, the impor¬ 
tance of a move away from metanarratives and the centrality of discern¬ 
ment within postmodern rationality will be reviewed as a method for pas¬ 
toral counseling. 


In this second sectiori, I will briefly discuss two models of pastoral counseling. I 
will argu€ that both models depend upon specific beliefs and propositions^,used 
as metanarratives^ to guide their interdisciplinary activity. In addition, both 
models limit discernment almost exclusively to a pre-theoretical level, Le., the 



following of the “rules” set by the epistemic beliefs. The first model to be dis¬ 
cussed is the bipolar model of the Dutch pastoral theologian Gerben 
Heitink and the second is the “bilingual” model of Deborah van Deusen 

Gerben Heitink’s Bipolar Model 

As already mentioned, interdisciplinary dialogue between theology and 
psychology is intrinsic to pastoral theology and pastoral counseling. In his 
work Pastoraat als Hulpverlening (1977), the Dutch pastoral theologian 
Gerben Heitink views interdisciplinary activity in terms of a broad under¬ 
standing of bipolarity. Interdisciplinary dialogue takes place between “the¬ 
ology and the empirical, between theology and psychology, between revela¬ 
tion and experience, between faith and religion, between pastoral counsel¬ 
ing and psychotherapy” (1977:80).^ Within the pastoral setting, the bipolar¬ 
ity is emphasized as the pastoral counselor with her unique identity enters 
a relationship with another person. 

Heitink works with the presupposition that pastoral care is a service that 
is beneficial and helpful to people in the form of care and assistance. He 
wants to strengthen the pastoral identity of the pastoral counselor as he dis¬ 
tinguishes between pastoral counseling and three other “helping profes¬ 
sions,” namely, the medical profession, social work and psychology. These 
professions share similarities, including their dependence upon communi¬ 
cation (between a trained professional and another person) and establish¬ 
ing a relationship with another person. However, Heitink believes that the 
different disciplines represent fundamentally diverse natures, and therefore 
each discipline experiences tension relating to the other “helping disci¬ 
plines.” Heitink accepts the bipolarity within pastoral counseling but 
stresses the uniqueness of the pastoral identity. He finds the unique charac¬ 
ter in the pastor’s connection to the gospel and the church of Christ (wor¬ 
ship, catechism and pastoral care), and in viewing faith and life questions 
in light of the gospel and in association with the church of Christ (1977:151). 
Heitink defines “in light of the gospel” as refering to God’s grace and mercy, 
to God’s concern for humanity, and to God’s soteriological acts. It also re¬ 
fers to the coming of the Kingdom. Heitink has a wide-ranging understand- 

^ Heitink’s book has not been translated into English. The author did all 

Hamman: Postmodern Methodology for Pastoral Counseling 

ing of “faith and life questions” which may have a personal, relational, socio¬ 
cultural, developmental, psychological, or faith content (1977:155). 

Heitink thus views pastoral counseling as a unique profession to be dis¬ 
tinguished from other “helping professions” because it uses very specific 
epistemic foundations. “Whereas each helping profession needs to define its 
own identity, this is all the more important for pastoral counseling whose 
identity extends from faith a priori which is not verifiable nor can count on 
general acceptance” (Heitink 1977:79-80, emphasis added). The faith a 
priori distinguishes pastoral counseling from the other “helping profes¬ 
sions.” The unique nature of pastoral counseling is determined by its 
grounding in epistemic foundations. 

Drawing on these epistemic foundations, Heitink defines pastoral coun¬ 
seling in terms of a “a pastor becoming engaged in a helping relation with 
other persons in order to seek with them, in light of the gospel and in fel¬ 
lowship with the church of Christ, a way to address their life-and-faith ques¬ 
tions” (1977:75). The bipolarity between the pastor, who acts according to 
revelation and faith a priori, and the person seeking assistance while living 
within experience, is apparent. Heitink’s model is a model of Reformed pas¬ 
toral counseling and is used especially in the Netherlands and in South Af¬ 

Deborah van Deusen Hunsinger’s “Bilingual” Approach 

Whereas Heitink embraces the bipolarity inherent to pastoral counseling, 
Deborah van Deusen Hunsinger proposes a very different model for pasto¬ 
ral counseling. She draws upon the theology of Karl Barth and his interpre¬ 
tation of the Chalcedonian tradition to assimilate the bipolarity within pas¬ 
toral counseling. It is important to state that the interest of this essay is not 
in Van Deusen Hunsinger’s use of Barthian theology per sc. The focus, how¬ 
ever, is on her use of a metanarrative and religious a priori (the 
Chalcedonian pattern), as well as her understanding of discernment within 
interdisciplinary activity. 

In examining the theological legacy of Karl Barth and his relevancy for 
pastoral counseling as a ministry of the church. Van Deusen Hunsinger ar¬ 
rives at the person of Jesus Christ and the Chalcedonian pattern in her book 
Theology and Pastoral Counseling: A New Interdisciplinary Approach (1995). 
According to Van Deusen Hunsinger, Barth’s theology, “grounded solely in 
God’s self-revelation in Jesus Christ, offers pastoral counselors a perspective 



that is significantly distinguished from psychological modes of thought” 
(1995:12). Van Deusen Hunsinger acknowledges that the use of Barth as a 
theologian that promotes interdisciplinary dialogue may sound strange at 
first, but states that Barth’s 

.. .consistent concern to delimit the boundaries of theology, differen¬ 
tiating it from fields not based on God’s self-revelation, makes Barth a 
promising conversation partner not only for the dialogue that is truly 
interdisciplinary, but also for pastoral counseling as a bilingual form 
of ministry (1995:13). 

Van Deusen Hunsinger’s model draws upon Barth’s interpretation of God’s 
revelation in Jesus Christ and his interpretation of the Council of Chalcedon 
(AD 451). Chalcedon argued for the divine and human natures of Christ, 
which were related without separation or division and without confusion or 
change. Barth’s interpretation of Chalcedon led him to state that conceptual 
priority should be assigned to the divine over the human nature. The 
Chalcedonian pattern thus describes the Person of Christ (the Divine na¬ 
ture of Christ and Christ’s human nature) as “indissoluble differentiation” 
(related without confusion or change), “inseparable unity” (related without 
separation or division) and “indestructible order” (with asymmetrical or¬ 
der) (1995:65). 

Drawing on the revelation of God through Christ, Van Deusen Hun¬ 
singer’s use of epistemic foundations and a metanarrative is self-evident. She 
states: “The knowledge of God as received by faith is understood to be sec¬ 
ondary and derivative in the sense that it rests on the foundation of God’s 
own self-knowledge” (1995:119). Such “foundational language” is quite com¬ 
mon in Van Deusen Hunsinger’s work, evidenced by the following state¬ 
ments: “Barth is concerned to find a way to ground human knowledge of 
God in God alone” (1995:113); and “Barth’s premise thus follows the order of 
being rather than an order of becoming. God as He is in Himself thereby 
becomes the ground of any true statements we might make about God as 
God is in relation to us” (1995:117). 

Van Deusen Hunsinger moves from a theoretical (or even pre-theoreti- 
cal level) to practical application by arguing that the Chalcedonian pattern 
provides methodological clarity for the interdisciplinary relationship be¬ 
tween theology and psychology. Translated into the interdisciplinary dia¬ 
logue between theology and psychology, the same pattern identified in the 

Hamman: Postmodern Methodology for Pastoral Counseling 

person of Christ—described as without confusion or change, without sepa¬ 
ration or division, and with asymmetrical order—prevails. A pastoral 
counselor using this method would thus be “bilingual,” able to communicate 
not only in theological “language,” but also in the “language” of psychology. 
Pastoral competency is found in the ability to communicate effectively in the 
two “languages.” These “languages” are never fused into one “language” and 
(conceptual) priority is given to the theological “language” (the asymmetri¬ 
cal order). 

Each discipline can thus define its boundaries to secure its integrity and 
continue to investigate subject matter according to its nature. Interdiscipli¬ 
nary activity, due to conceptual priority, implies that different disciplines 
remain untouched by each other, and therefore “bilingualism” can be used 
by Van Deusen Hunsinger as a metaphor to describe her methodology. In¬ 
tegration of the two “languages” takes place within the person of the coun¬ 
selor, although Van Deusen Hunsinger does not describe just how such in¬ 
tegration takes place. 

Van Deusen Hunsinger’s bilingual model draws upon very specific 
theological beliefs, namely, those of Reformed theology as illuminated 
Karl Barth, to guide interdisciplinary dialogue in a pastoral setting. Those 
epistemic beliefs operate on a theoretical level as well as in praxis (the 
clinical setting). Important to Van Deusen Hunsinger is that the bilingual 
nature of the pastoral counselor must be maintained, which implies that 
the epistemic beliefs chosen are also understood as guiding principles 
within the clinical setting. The epistemic beliefs seem to be beyond criti¬ 

Within the scope of this essay it is impossible to give justice to two mod¬ 
els. However, I do believe that I have sufficiently described the two models 
to identify their use of epistemic foundations, the role discernment takes 
within the theories, and how these two elements inform their respective 
methodologies and theologies. Although Van Deusen Hunsinger and 
Heitink offer diverse models of pastoral counseling and have different no¬ 
tions of pastoral theology, they both rely on the revelation of God (in Christ 
and in Scripture) to inform their theologies. Both models also find them¬ 
selves within a neo-orthodox understanding of theology, a theology de¬ 
scribed by Nancey Murphy as “a dead end,” leading theology into a “crisis” 
(1990:15). The crisis arises because neo-orthodoxy leaves unanswered the 
question whether “we know with the required certainty what we take to be 
revelation is indeed the word of God?” 



Murphy’s concern introduces critical questions of critique against the 
models of Heitink and Van Deusen Hunsinger. How do we know that what 
we take to be revelation is indeed the word of God? Who decides on the “re¬ 
quired certainty,” or whose understanding of “church” and “gospel” will be 
used? In addition, how should contradicting theological interpretations be 
interpreted? This is certainly a challenge postmodernism would direct at 
both scholars. It is therefore important to take a closer look at the theolo¬ 
gies and methodologies of Heitink and Van Deusen Hunsinger in light of 
the criteria discussed in the first section. 

Heitink and Van Deusen Hunsinger Revisited 

Postmodern rationality may pose several questions to the models of Heitink 
and Van Deusen Hunsinger: Why resort to the use of unverifiable a priori 
(epistemic) foundations in establishing a methodology for pastoral coun¬ 
seling? Whose definition of “church” and “gospel” will govern the pastoral 
counseling? Why does the personal/pastoral identity of the pastoral coun¬ 
selor need the guardianship (or security) of a priori foundations? In the 
postmodern context, with its contempt for metanarratives, how should 
metanarratives such as “the gospel” and Barth’s understanding of revelation 
be evaluated? Can there be unrestrained interdisciplinary dialogue within 
the “confines” of “asymmetrical order,” even if it is only conceptual priority? 
Where does the pastoral counselor as a discerning (rational) agent come 
into play in these models? Is discernment, defined by terms such as “bilin¬ 
gualism” and “bipolarity,” suffcient to define interdisciplinary interpreta¬ 

In assessing the two models discussed from a postmodern perspective, 
these and many more concerns can be raised. I would like to mention two 
aspects that are worth further investigation. The first is that both models are 
dependent upon epistemic foundations that act as metanarratives. The sec¬ 
ond aspect is the models’ deficient (and possibly naive) understanding of 

Both Heitink and Van Deusen Hunsinger use epistemic foundations on 
which they build their models, though Van Deusen Hunsinger is much 
clearer about how the epistemic foundations guide interdisciplinary dia¬ 
logue. Heitink presupposes interdisciplinary dialogue in which theology 
stays aware of its unique character. This said, the epfstemic foundation for 
Heitink is the church of Christ and Scripture while for Van Deusen Hun¬ 
singer it is the revelation of Jesus Christ explicated by the Chalcedonian 

Hamman: Postmodern Methodology for Pastoral Counseling 

dynamic. Epistemic foundations act as self-evident beliefs and are seen as 
being beyond any doubt, as they portray not only a universal character, but 
also guide interdisciplinary activity. The Chalcedonian pattern, used as an 
epistemic foundation, may even be seen as inflexible and infallible. The 
epistemic foundations are used in the arguments of both Heitink and Van 
Deusen Hunsinger as sources of justification, legitimization and even mo¬ 
tivation. As such, the epistemic beliefs function as metanarratives. 

A metaphor that may be used to disclose further the use of metanarratives 
in the models of Heitink and Van Deusen Hunsinger, is Willard Quine’s myth 
of the museum (Thiel 1994:18-20). Quine describes the use of epistemic be¬ 
liefs using the analogy of a museum. In this analogy, a conceptual scheme 
(such as “Chalcedon” or “the church” and “in light of the gospel”) is imaged 
as a museum in which the words and meanings are exhibits. The walls of this 
museum are not defined by any individual’s mental experience since a con¬ 
ceptual scheme is a public trust (or even Godly trust?) rather than private 
property. Like standing exhibits in a museum, meanings in the conceptual 
scheme are seen as part of the permanent collection with independent real¬ 
ity and a value of their own. Having this independent reality, they receive 
labels to identify them so that people can discuss them as they walk by. 

In Quine’s analogy, there are as many sets of labels as there are languages. 
However, irrespective of the languages or set of labels used, the myth of the 
museum presupposes words that, like museum exhibits, possess objectivity 
capable of appreciation, contemplation, and criticism. The myth distributes 
its epistemic foundationalism throughout the idea of a conceptual scheme 
in which meanings are thought to have a mental life of their own apart from 
their use and applicability in language. Susan Haack defines foundationalism 
as justified beliefs that are “basic; a basic belief is justified independently of 
the support of any other belief. All other justified beliefs are derived; a de¬ 
rived belief is justified via the support, direct or indirect, of a basic belief or 
basic beliefs” (1996:14). “The church” or the “Chalcedonian pattern” have 
objectivity beyond human (contextual) interpretation, and thus act as self- 
evident truths. However, the myth of the museum challenges such a belief. 

Within the myth, theories are readily conceived of as universal explana¬ 
tions. Theorizing is successful when its explanations do justice to the con¬ 
ceptual scheme used. For the models discussed, pastoral counseling would 
be true to its “nature” only if a situation is viewed in light of the church and 
the gospel, or when bilingualism with asymmetry is honored. Failure in in¬ 
terdisciplinary activity is never ascribed to the theory used, as it has sound 



foundations. Rather, failure according to Heitink or Van Deusen Hunsinger 
reflects an inadequate understanding of the gospel and the church, or the 
pastoral counselor not being bilingual enough. This would necessarily im¬ 
ply that a rational agent does not comprehend the definitions as Heitink and 
Van Deusen Hunsinger understand them. 

It is this very dynamic that exposes the myth of the museum in pastoral 
counseling. The myth identifies the objective nature of metanarratives, 
which is challenged by postmodern rationality. Postmodern rationality 
views meaning as being provincial or contextual (local) and not universal 
or transcendental. Meaning is a function of discernment and of context, and 
immanent within both. There are no context-free (or even person-free) 
theories. From a postmodern perspective both Heitink and Van Deusen 
Hunsinger’s models can be placed within the myth of the museum. 

Pastoral counseling’s myth of the museum has discernment inseparably 
linked with the conceptual theory that would guide interdisciplinary dia¬ 
logue. As the brief description of discernment in the first section indicated, 
movement away from metanarratives (and the myth) implies a central role 
for discernment. Staying congruent to the “two languages” (Van Deusen 
Hunsinger) or even interpreting a situation in “light of the gospel” (Heitink) 
functions on a pre-theoretical level and does not honor the intricacies, such 
as power relations, self-consciousness and language use of discernment. 
Foundationalist theories find knowledge and insight in the epistemic foun¬ 
dations used and not in the rational agent. 

The questions mentioned in the first paragraph of this section receive 
even more importance if the power-knowledge relationship is accepted as a 
central concern for the discerning agent. Since Foucault indicated that 
power could produce knowledge, how is the Chalcedonian dynamic and the 
specific interpretation of church and gospel influenced by the discerning 
agent(s)? Can religious a priori, often seen as objective truths, guide contex¬ 
tual situations without being influenced by rational agents at all? 

These questions identify a postmodern critique of the models of discern¬ 
ment used by Heitink and Van Deusen Hunsinger. The use of universal reli¬ 
gious a priori (metanarratives) influences the very nature of pastoral coun¬ 
seling and the decisions made within the counseling setting. Could it be that 
such a use of religious a priori actually inhibits pastoral theology from en¬ 
tering interdisciplinary dialogue? Using metanarratives may not even be 
sufficient for intra-disciplinary discussions (within theology) due to the 
variety of theologies prevalent today. Postmodern discernment places the 

Hamman: Postmodern Methodology for Pastoral Counseling 37 

emphasis on comprehension, intervention and manipulation, or in short, on 
reasoning strategies. These reasoning strategies call for a rationality located 
in the rational agent and not in rational foundations or beliefs. Both Heitink 
and Van Deusen Hunsinger are silent on the reasoning strategies they use 
but are clear as to the rational foundations they use. 

Positively, both Heitink and Van Deusen Hunsinger offer an insight that 
would be important within a postmodern methodology for pastoral coun^ 
seling. This can be described in terms of the “unique” character of pastoral 
counseling (Heitink) or “without confusion or change” (Van Deusen 
Hunsinger). Both scholars indicate that pastoral counseling should be dis¬ 
tinguished from other disciplines such as psychology. The “languages” of 
theology and psychology should not be conflated into a single “language.” 
This distinction is congruent with the postmodern call for local narratives, 
where theology and psychology would each imply a different (local) narra¬ 
tive. A fusion of theology and psychology into a single entity would not 
honor either discipline and would invite postmodernism’s critique. 

I further agree with Heitink and Van Deusen Hunsinger that pastoral 
theology and pastoral counseling need to claim their authority. Within a 
postmodern approach to pastoral counseling this remains true as well. How¬ 
ever, theology can claim its authority as a discipline in a manner that would 
not elicit postmodernism’s critique of metanarratives. A methodology for 
pastoral counseling is needed that would move away from metanarratives 
as a source of validation, while accepting the challenge of responsible dis¬ 
cernment. Additionally, this methodology should guard the unique identity 
of pastoral counseling while placing emphasis on the rational agent and not 
on rational beliefs. While not having pastoral counseling in mind, Calvin O. 
Schrag proposes such a model of interdisciplinary activity. He accepts the 
postmodern challenge toward rationality, honors the integrity of different 
disciplines within an interdisciplinary setting, and offers transversal reason¬ 
ing as a methodology of interdisciplinary activity. 



In his book. The Resources of Rationality: A Response to the Postmodern Chal¬ 
lenge (1992), Calvin O. Schrag searches for a philosophical position between 
modernism and postmodernism. His concept of transversal rationality, to be 
defined in the following paragraphs, offers a method of interdisciplinary 



activity that is truly postmodern as it takes postmodern critique seriously, 
but also continues the relationship with tradition and modernity. Transver¬ 
sal rationality strengthens pastoral theology in intra-theological discussion 
and pastoral counseling in interdisciplinary dialogue. It honors the concerns 
of Heitink and Van Deusen Hunsinger, namely, that different disciplines can¬ 
not be fused and that pastoral counseling has a unique character. 

The central thesis of transversal rationality is that it is characterized by 
three phases of communicative praxis. Transversal reasoning operates “in 
and through the transversal play of discourse and action, word and deed, 
speaking and writing, hearing and reading,” through critique, articulation 
and disclosure (Schrag 1992:9). 

As a philosopher, Schrag views the central task of philosophy as being 
twofold in nature: philosophy should cultivate reason while acting as its 
caretaker. Schrag accepts this responsibility as he draws on postmodern phi¬ 
losophy in commenting on reason while guarding rationality at the same 
time. He portrays a critical but constructive attitude, constantly searching 
for ways to overcome polarities and deconstruction. For Schrag, transversal 
reasoning takes place within the tension field between the modern and the 
postmodern, and he argues for maintaining the tension. 

Schrag finds the postmodern challenge directed at reason difficult to 
comprehend as postmodernism is neither a single theory nor a set of doc¬ 
trines. Postmodernity communicates a sociopolitical ethos or mind-set that 
can be seen in art, literature, science, politics, philosophy, theology, etc. Ac¬ 
cepting Jean-Francois Lyotard’s understanding of the postmodern, Schrag 
, identifies a to-and-fro movement between the modern and the postmodern 
(1992:7). For Schrag, modern rationality has been problematized by 
postmodernity, and transversal reasoning is an attempt to solve the uncon¬ 
trolled pluralism of postmodernity, something that contradicts Schrag’s 
constructive and “in-between” nature. 

To explicate transversal reasoning’s “in-between” nature, Schrag exam¬ 
ines how reason has been understood throughout history. This leaves him 
with an image of rationality as “the despised logos” (1992:17). Traditionally 
the logos informed the grammar and self-understanding of knowledge and 
played a central role in Greek philosophy, the medieval period and the mod¬ 
ern period. It has a pervasive and ubiquitous character and views the human 
mind as rational insofar as it participates in the rational structure of the 
cosmos. The pervasive character of the logos (rationality) is apparent in 
modernity’s shift from the ontological nature of knowledge to scientific ra- 

Hamman: Postmodern Methodology for Pastoral Counseling 

tionality. Within modernity, rationality is defined as logic: method, mea¬ 
surement, effective control and prediction. Through this shift to logic, 
scientific (with technical) reason is universalized. 

Schrag’s use of postmodern scholars such as Lyotard, Deleuze, Guattari 
and Foucault further enhances the despised nature of the logos. Using these 
scholars, Schrag concludes that local, small narratives, intertwined with is¬ 
sues of power and desire, should replace metanarratives. Deleuze and 
Guattari call for “nomad science” to replace “royal science” that would use 
metanarratives. Nomadology and postmodernism react against the episte¬ 
mological paradigm of modernity with its unimpeachable foundations of 
knowledge and epistemological certainty. Building on a phrase from Rich¬ 
ard Rorty, the “poverty of epistemology,” Schrag moves away from an epis¬ 
temology of foundations to hermeneutics (1992:24). 

Postmodernism’s attack on reason leaves no secure space in which mean¬ 
ing can be found and references made. This said, Schrag believes that there 
is a “safe place between the modern and the postmodern, where the logos 
falls to neither logic nor illogic, where reason rules but does not tyrannize, 
and where we enjoy the temperate gains of the postmodern without suffer¬ 
ing its extremes” (Bottum 1994:379). This place is the transversal sphere. 
Schrag thus supports the postmodern attack on reason insofar as it identi¬ 
fies the ahistorical universalism of modernity, but denies postmodernism’s 
“rhapsodic play of differance and rampant pluralism” (1992:9). 

Schrag states that epistemologists, who use epistemological foundations 
in their reasoning, do not consider the dependence of meaning and refer¬ 
ence upon discursive contexts and the role of the addresser/addressee inter¬ 
action. Meaning and reference are not established once and for all, as the 
postmodern attack against metanarratives does not leave meaning and ref¬ 
erence untouched. Under the postmodern attack on reason, meaning and 
reference fall into plurality and paralogy. It is thus no surprise that Lyotard 
emphasizes a postmodern society of heterogeneity, multiplicity, dissensus 
and incommensurability. 

Schrag’s discussion of postmodernism and historicism identifies post¬ 
modernism as the radicalization and retrenchment of modernity and not as 
a period that follows modernity (1992:45). Within the new historicism of 
postmodernism, the past and future are devalued, and the present is re¬ 
shaped into a short-lived “present-becoming.” Although the past is devalued, 
Schrag follows Alisdair MacIntyre in that a break with tradition is impos¬ 
sible, as no thought and action can be traditionless (1992:48). Tradition re- 



mains important although constructs and meaning may be deconstructed. 
It may just be that incommensurability, conflict of perspectives, paralogy 
and dissensus do not have the final word. The communicative practices of 
our historical inheritance may provide possibilities for rational critique, ar¬ 
ticulation and disclosure, as these are geared to an understanding of shared 
experiences, evaluation and emancipation. Discourse and discernment are 
thus of central concern if tradition remains important to rationality. 

In response to a modern view of discernment (as theory-grounded cri¬ 
tique) that depends upon rules, Schrag resituates critique within the space 
of communicative practices and the dynamics of our lifeworld involvement 
(1992:59). Schrag coins this critique “praxial critique,” as it does not depend 
on foundations and does not search for certainty. The critique is inseparable 
from the practices and projects of the various communities of investigators 
and interpreters as they attempt to communicate meaning. Thought and 
action, two central characteristics of discernment, are constantly seen 
against the backdrop of changing and historically determined conditions. 
Praxis, to be distinguished from practice (as the application of contextless 
theory), encompasses a variety of social practices in personal and public 
existence. Praxis “refigures social practices as performances of meaning, 
[and] displays intentionality that exhibit their own insight, comprehension 
and sense-constitution” (1992:59). The theory/practice bifurcation still ex¬ 
ists within praxial critique, but practice is not helpless without theory. 

Praxial critique, as a method of discernment, infuses social practices 
such as the human sciences. Especially within the human sciences, praxial 
critique as discernment overcomes methodologism. It is systematic in na¬ 
ture without falling into the finality and totality of system building search¬ 
ing for absolute certainty. Using Habermas’s “communicative reason” that 
refutes subject-centered reason, and the Wittgensteinian perspective of 
the communality of reason, Schrag wants to keep the relationship (and 
tension) between rationality and community. He does this by identifying 
a transversal interplay between the claims of reason and the claims of the 
community as these “intersect, lie across each other, [and] converge with¬ 
out becoming coincident” (1992:63). Transversal interplay takes place 
within communicative practice and the dialectical action of participation 
and distanciation. 

Participation and distanciation are important moments as no discern¬ 
ment is possible without pre-judgments, habits and skills that inform a 
person’s participation in the communal world. Participation and 

Hamman: Postmodern Methodology for Pastoral Counseling 41 

distanciation describe an attitude toward intellectual heritage or tradition. 
Within any discipline, Schrag envisions a person embracing tradition while 
critically distancing himself or herself from that very same tradition. 
Distanciation is especially important as without it participation leads to tra¬ 
ditionalism and conservatism. As Schrag identified participation and 
distanciation as central to the discernment process, rationality—infused by 
hermeneutics—is forced to come to terms with the consequences of inter¬ 
pretation. The central metaphors used to describe these consequences of 
hermeneutics are “a hermeneutics of nostalgia” versus a “hermeneutics of 
affirmation” (1992:68). 

The two metaphors of affirmation and nostalgia are irreconcilable, yet 
Schrag argues for both as attitudes to describe an investigator’s relationship 
to knowledge. Staying within the “in-between” tension, Schrag refuses to 
accept a context neutral concept of hermeneutics. Hermeneutics for Schrag 
implies an interactional and communicative praxis where the rational re¬ 
quirements for discernment, formed by the dialectic of participation (nos¬ 
talgia) and distanciation (affirmation), remain in force. In this affirmative 
approach to rationality, transversal hermeneutics replace universal herme¬ 
neutics as a source for rationality. Tradition and knowledge can be used 
(participation) only if there is critical discernment (distanciation) of that 
very tradition. 

Transversal rationality’s emphasis on interpretation and hermeneutics 
introduces matters of discourse and language. Schrag is confronted with 
postmodernity’s lack of taking non-discursive dispositions and practices 
into consideration as exhibiting articulatory functions, and thus playing 
a central role in any discernment process. Non-discursive practices may 
be the time and space of the action, mood, desire, bodily and institutional 
inscriptions, power relations, etc. Transversal rationality reclaims the ar¬ 
ticulatory power of a person’s nondiscursive involvements of the lifeworld 
because actions, desires, emotions and gestural comportment are also 
ways of understanding and articulating the self and the world. Schrag 
defines rationality in a way that accepts nondiscursive involvements of the 
lifeworld in terms of the Russian philosopher Mikhail Bakhtin’s concept 
of chronotope (1992:83). The chronotope is the assimilated time and space 
of our socio-historical existence, reaching into the worlds of perception, 
action, desire and institutional associations. The chronotopal 
configuration as a time-space assimilation houses a heteroglossia of voices 
that speak of times and places under varying circumstances. As a plural- 



ity of discourses the chronotope stays dialogical as the discourse remains 
linked to different contexts: scientific, legal, moral, economic, aesthetic, 
and religious. 

Within a conjugated space-time frame of the chronotopal horizon, nar¬ 
rative becomes important as an element inherent to human experience 
and action. Schrag warns against the danger (for postmodernity) of turn¬ 
ing narratives into another metanarrative or narratology. He finds narra¬ 
tive emplotment as integrating, binding together, and assimilating a mul¬ 
tiplicity of discourses articulating knowledge. The meaning of narratives 
lies for Schrag in hermeneutics and communicative praxis, forcing the 
importance of interpretation. Interpretation is the articulation of the 
forms of life as they become manifest in discourse and action positioned 
against the background history of social and institutional practices. This 
forms the lifeworld that forms an integral part of interpretation, discern¬ 
ment and disclosure (1992:103). Disclosing is uncovering, unmasking, and 
opening up, a responsibility assisting in moving from reality to the 
lifeworld. As Schrag sees disclosure, it cannot be understood without tak¬ 
ing into consideration the lifeworld, the perception, the non-discursive 
practices and actions of the person doing the disclosure. Disclosure is in¬ 
timately connected to rhetoric. 

Rhetoric is seen as the interweaving of discernment, deliberation and 
action, making disclosure possible (Schrag 1992:117). Without rhetoric, 
(transversal) rationality is not possible. Schrag argues for the refiguring of 
rhetoric into communicative rhetoric that takes into consideration the no¬ 
tion that rhetoric takes place within power structures that alienate and rup¬ 
ture, but also create and produce knowledge in a community. Rhetoric is not 
rule-governed but requires “good reasons” to validate claims. The knowl¬ 
edge generated through rhetoric is fallible and probable, and no universal¬ 
ization can be done with rhetoric’s communicative products. Rhetoric also 
persuades the acceptance of local narratives through critical participation 
and distanciation. Schrag’s rhetoric implies that the critical appropriation of 
tradition as discernment is never traditionless. 

For Schrag, rhetoric discloses that which must be seen and heard. Agree¬ 
ing with Habermas, Schrag believes that the disclosure rhetoric fosters can 
take place across different genres. The acceptance that the genres are differ¬ 
ent and cannot collapse into each other is important (1992:142). Schrag iden¬ 
tifies this as a danger within postmodernism in that no appropriation of his¬ 
tory takes place. 

Hamman: Postmodern Methodology for Pastoral Counseling 

Transversal rationality thus operates in no specific genre and promotes 
interdisciplinary dialogue in many different disciplines. For Schrag, the use 
of the transversal metaphor 

exhibits interrelated senses of lying across, extending over, intersect¬ 
ing, meeting and converging without achieving coincidence. By way 
of complex maneuvers of borrowing and conjugation, metaphorical 
play and refiguration, the various disciplines make use of these inter¬ 
related senses ensconced within transversality to understand and ex¬ 
plain geometrical space, events in nature, anatomical structures, physi¬ 
ological processes, human behavior, and cultural and historical 
configurations. It is thus that transversality, most generally construed, 
provides a window to the wider world of thought and action (1992:149). 

Transversality has no single meaning of unity, as each discipline operates in 
its own field of inquiry. Transversal rationality never transcends human ex¬ 
perience nor is it inherent to experience; it is transversal to various forms of 
personal and social forms of life. It operates between these various forms of 
life to critique, articulate and disclose them without achieving a coincidence 
with any particular form of discourse, thought or action. The integrity of the 
“otherness” of various disciplines is maintained as transversal rationality 
falls out as a convergence without coincidence, an interplay without synthe¬ 
sis, an appropriation without totalization, and an unification that allows for 
difference. It is thus no surprise that Schrag offers Lyotard’s “translation” as a 
synonym for transversal reasoning. Lyotard submits that translation re¬ 
quires pertinences that are “transversal to languages” (Schrag 1992:153). In 
translating from one language to another, one needs phrase regiments and 
genres of discourse in the one language that has analogues in the other. This 
requires the discernment of pertinences that lie across the two languages, 
which are somehow analogous, exhibiting a “sameness-within-difference.” 

It is difficult to explicate Schrag’s highly philosophical argument. Form¬ 
ing a clear understanding of transversal rationality is not an easy task. 
Schrag provides an example of the social contextualization of transversal 
reasoning that he borrows from Felix Guattari, who describes transversal ra¬ 
tionality in a psychiatric hospital. Within this multidisciplinary setting, psy¬ 
chiatrists, medical doctors, nurses, social workers, chaplains, families and 
patients may form part of a patient care conference where all disciplines and 
people present discern the best care plan for the patient. A peculiar network 



of groups and subgroups, types of expertise, lines of authority and con¬ 
cerned parties need to be taken into consideration. There is also an emo¬ 
tional “investment” (as a non-discursive practice) by the conversation part¬ 
ners that will inform the decision making process. “The exercise of decision 
making, with its multiple rationales, is transversal to the different groups and 
various social roles that make up the institutional complex” (Schrag 
1992:162). Each discipline plays a role in the discernment process by bring¬ 
ing its unique contribution, thus reaching a disclosure that is in the best in¬ 
terests of the parties involved. 

Moving from this example of transversal reasoning to the pastoral care 
setting is helpful in establishing a concept of transversal reasoning for pas¬ 
toral counseling. In pastoral counseling, theological and psychological in¬ 
sights are used as the pastoral counselor searches for disclosure through dis¬ 
cernment. The benefits of transversal reasoning for pastoral counseling and 
pastoral theology are multiple, but I would like to mention some challenges 
transversal reasoning directs at pastoral counseling: 

• Transversal rationality offers pastoral theology a rationality that is situ¬ 
ated between modernity and postmodernity, accepting the challenges of a 
postmodern rationality. 

• Pastoral theology can move beyond the use of metanarratives and rules, 
using local narratives—i.e. narratives that would make sense to the person 
being counseled—and discernment processes. 

• Transversal reasoning offers pastoral theology a methodology that is 
truly interdisciplinary and which may be honored by many disciplines. The 
methodology can also be used in intra-theological discussions, especially in 
a discipline such as practical theology where Christian education, homilet¬ 
ics and pastoral theology have diverse subject matter and orientations. 

• Transversal rationality calls any specific discipline beyond its own 
boundaries, not to be threatened by “the other,” as transversal rationality is 
inherently interdisciplinary in nature. Transversal rationality thereby invites 
theology to interact with philosophy of science or psychology and to enter 
dialogue with these and other disciplines. 

• Transversal reasoning challenges pastoral counseling and pastoral the¬ 
ology to consider the pastoral counselor as a rational agent within the dis¬ 
cernment process. With its focus on non-discursive practices, transversal 
reasoning accepts the challenge that people’s experiences (in a lifeworld) do 
influence discernment processes. Knowing without the rational agent (and 
thus experience) is impossible. Within the discernment process various 

Hamman: Postmodern Methodology for Pastoral Counseling 

theological traditions and psychological schools of thought can be used. 
This allows for great diversity, creativity and personal choice within the 
pastoral practice. Transversal reasoning offers feminist theology the op¬ 
portunity to inform the pastoral practice. Eco-theology can also inform 
the pastoral practice by incorporating nature as an object of healing. 
Transversal reasoning offers liberation theology, black theology, and many 
other theologies the opportunity of having a central voice as these theolo¬ 
gies inform pastoral counseling and pastoral theology. Transversal reason¬ 
ing, of course, also allows for theologians such as Tillich, Barth, 
Bonhoeffer, and others to inform this process. The postmodern challenge 
to the use of metanarratives will remain regardless of the theology (and 
psychology) used. 

• Lastly, transversal reasoning implies a back-and-forth movement be¬ 
tween the different disciplines, so that theology may be influenced not only 
by the interdisciplinary activity itself, but also by the other disciplines within 
the interdisciplinary dialogue. 


Stanton Jones, in his paper, “A Constructive Relationship for Religion with 
the Science and Profession of Psychology: Perhaps the Boldest Model Yet,” 
states that whenever psychology formally interacts with theology, it has typi¬ 
cally been in one of three classic modalities (Jones 1994:184). The three 
methods of interaction Jones identifies are psychology of religion, psychol¬ 
ogy supplying useful psychological information to guide the practice of pas¬ 
toral care, and psychological theories used to revise, supplant, dismiss, re¬ 
define, or reinterpret established religious traditions. For Jones, all three 
methods are unidirectional, with psychology being unaffected in any sub¬ 
stantive way by any interaction. None of the unidirectional interactions 
views theology as a peer or a partner. Jones, therefore, argues for a different 
relationship between psychology and theology based on mutuality and re¬ 

Unidirectional interaction, where one discipline informs the interdisci¬ 
plinary methodology and much more, also typifies theology’s interaction 
with psychology. Traditionally, theology informs the interdisciplinary prac¬ 
tice of pastoral care and counseling. Two examples of unidirectional mod¬ 
els were discussed in this essay. Unidirectional models are usually found 
where theology uses epistemic foundations that lie outside the inquiry of all 



non-theological communities of inquiry in order to inform its methodol¬ 

Calvin O. Schrag’s model of transversal rationality breaks the unidirec¬ 
tional nature and interaction of theology with psychology through accep¬ 
tance of the postmodern challenge. The critique of moving away from 
metanarratives or rational discernment is not just a critique directed at the¬ 
ology, but also to psychology. Within transversal rationality, with its inter¬ 
disciplinary dialogue, different sciences become equal dialogue partners. 
This of course implies that theology can be informed by psychology and 
vice versa, as no single discipline has (conceptual or practical) superiority 
over the other. Discernment is possible, but deprived, if all available disci¬ 
plines are not involved in the discernment process. 

In this essay, I discussed a communicative model of rationality as a model 
to describe the interdisciplinary activity of pastoral counseling. It offers a 
model of rationality that is realistic (vs. utopian), making discernment— 
which is embedded in background beliefs, traditions, discursive and non- 
discursive involvements, and the person of the pastoral counselor—a real¬ 
istic possibility. Schrag offers pastoral counseling a communicative model of 
rationality that locates rationality in the rational agent and not in proposi¬ 
tions or beliefs. Regarding such a communicative model for practical theol¬ 
ogy, Richard R. Osmer states that 

Looking at rationality as a form of communication means that you do 
not have to say everything all at once. There is time later for further 
explanation and defense in response to the challenges and insights of 
others. Let us, then, begin a process of communication that is not in¬ 
tended to end here, but to be the first step in an unfolding conversation 

Schrag’s model of transversal reasoning offers many opportunities for fur¬ 
ther discussion. It challenges pastoral counseling to embrace a communica¬ 
tive model of rationality that accepts the challenges of postmodern philoso¬ 
phy (of science), moving beyond the use of metanarratives and realizing the 
importance of discernment within a person as a rational agent. Acknowl¬ 
edging that an impartial view of the models discussed in this essay is impos¬ 
sible, I hope this essay will elicit “further explanation and defense in re¬ 
sponse to the challenges and insights of others.” 

Hamman: Postmodern Methodology for Pastoral Counseling 


Bottum, Joseph 

Review of The Resources of Rationality: A Response to the 
Postmodern Challenge, by Calvin O. Schrag. International 
Philosophical Quarterly 24/3,379-80. 

Brown, Harold 

Rationality. New York: Routledge. 

Foucault, Michel 


Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. New York: 
Vintage Books. 

Haack, Susan 


Evidence and Inquiry: Towards Reconstruction in Epistemol 
ogy. Cambridge (UK): Blackwell. 

Heitink, Gerben 


Pastoraat als Hulpverlening: Inleiding in de Pastorale 
Theologie en Psychologie. Kampen: Uitgeversmaatschappij 
J.H. Kok. 

Hunsinger, Deborah Van Deusen 

1995 Theology and Pastoral Counseling: A New Interdisciplinary 

Jones, Stanton 

Approach. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing House. 

“A Constructive Relationship for Religion with the Science 
and Profession of Psychology.” American Psychologist 39/3 
(March): 184-99. 

Lyotard, Jean-Francois 

1984 The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge. Minne 


apolis: University of Minnesota Press. 

The Postmodern Explained. Minneapolis: University of 
Minnesota Press. 

Murphy, Nancey 

Theology in the Age of Scientific Reasoning. Ithaca: Cornell 
University Press. 



Osmer, Richard R. 



Patton, John 


Schrag, Calvin O. 


Stenmark, Mikael 


“Rationality in Practical Theology: A Map of the Emerging 
Discussion,” Unpublished paper delivered at the Interna¬ 
tional Academy of Practical Theology, Bonn. 

“Practical Theology as Argument, Rhetoric and Conversa¬ 
tion.” The Princeton Seminary Bulletin 18/1:46-73. 

“Pastoral Counseling.” Dictionary of Pastoral Counseling, ed. 
Rodney Hunter, 849-54. Nashville: Abingdon Press. 

The Resources of Rationality: A Response to the Postmodern 
Challenge. Indianapolis: Indiana University Press. 

Rationality in Science, Religion and Everyday Life: A Critical 
Evaluation of Eour Models of Rationality. Notre Dame: 
University of Notre Dame Press. 

Thiel, John E. 

Nonfoundationalism. Minneapolis: Fortress Press. 

KOINONIA XI/l (1999) 49-64 

The Aporia of Existence 


Karl Barth argued that God’s incarnation in Jesus Christ 
left an indelible imprint in human history comparable to a meteor impact¬ 
ing on the surface of the earth, leaving behind nothing but a vast crater (Barth 
1922:5). It is in this crater that human beings must consequently exist. They 
are able to perceive the reality of life within this Hohlraum below, but they 
cannot conceive the edge of the chasm created by this explosion, let alone 
that which lies beyond the border above. Hence, God’s enfleshment in Jesus 
of Nazareth occasioned for human beings a double bind: on the one hand, 
human beings must live a life of real homelessness in this world; on the other 
hand, they are given a promise of a coming Kingdom, where God’s will will 
be done on earth as it is in heaven. Thus, the existence of human beings 
takes on a nomadic characteristic fueled by an eschatological or apocalyptic 
longing,^ a longing that Karl Barth identified in his second edition of Der 
RomerbriefdiS the “dialectic of life,which this essay will refer to as the apo¬ 
ria of human existence. 

As the Word was made flesh, Jesus Christ changed human history forever 
by “upsetting the balance” (Johnson 1997:1) between heaven and earth. Thus, 
it becomes the task of the theologian to stand in the midst of the crater be¬ 
low, in the aporia of human existence, reaching for the border. It is a task to 

1 “Homeless in this world, not yet at home in the next, we human beings are 
wanderers between two worlds. But precisely as wanderers, we are also children 
of God in Christ. The mystery of our life is God’s mystery Moved by Him, we 
must sigh, be ashamed of ourselves, be shocked and die. Moved by Him, we may 
be joyful and courageous, hope and live. He is the Origin. Therefore, we persist in 
the movement and call: ‘Hallowed be Thy name! Thy Kingdom come! Thy will 
be done, on earth as it is in heaven!”’ (Barth in McCormack i995:xx). 

2 “What is in view here is the common human experience of the contradic¬ 
tory nature of human existence... “ (McCormack 1995:12). McCormack evalu¬ 
ates Barth’s thought in this respect as “Dialectical Theology in the Shadow of a 
Consistent Eschatology.” 



always “begin again at the beginning.” In this situation, in which God “sets 
a question mark against all truths,” (Barth 1922:11) the human being is left 
without a perceptible foundation on which s/he can rest securely.^ Home¬ 
less in a place that is no place, the human being’s task of becoming really 
human progresses into a journey through time that, in Barth’s theology, bears 
the characteristic of a “triadic pattern .”4 In the search for humanity’s true 
identity in the aporia of human existence, the human self is decentered as 
God’s work of reconciliation is ongoing and the promised day of final re¬ 
demption has not yet dawned. 

The question concerning the aporia of human existence is also the ques¬ 
tion of the French Jewish philosopher Jacques Derrida, who will serve as a 
dialogue partner for this essay to hone in on and focus the problem raised 
by Karl Barth. Employing a theological method informed by Barth’s theo¬ 
logical epistemology of “critical realism,” 5 1 intend to write this essay as a 
“witness to the mystery of divine action in revelation” by placing the aporia 
of human existence under the scrutiny of the New Testament lens of Jesus 
Ghrist as the Coming One. 

The wise saying of the Bohemian farmer of the old German folktale Der 
Ackermann aus Bohmen, that, as soon as a human being comes or is brought 
into life, this human being is at the very same time old enough to die, is true. 
And although death is a particular moment for a particular individual, it is 
also the particular moment for each particular other individual—the aporia 
of human existence, the moment between birth and death, which is charac¬ 
terized by doubts and perplexities concerning the impassable,^ the incon¬ 
ceivable passage between one place and time and another. 

3 “A major feature of postmodern theology is its nonfoundationalism. A truly 
nonfoundational approach will seek to abandon all appeals to presumed self- 
evident, non-inferential, or incorrigible grounds for its intellectual claims” 
(Johnson 1997:184). 

4 This triadic pattern consists of “The beginning point [that] is always pri¬ 
mordial, lying behind the present moment. The ending point is always 
eschatological, lying on the distant horizon. The midpoint signifies the present 
moment, an instant marked by God’s ongoing work of reconciliation” (Johnson 

5 “Like the Chalcedonian formula, it [critical realism] points out errors on 
the right hand and on the left without giving positive expression to the truth in 
the middle. And the reason is quite simply that the truth in the middle can only 
be expressed by God” (McCormack 1995:464). 

6 Webster s Third New International Dictionary of the English Language, vol. 1 .101. 

Heinzl: The Aporia of Existence 


According to the biblical witness, Jesus Christ, the Son of “Man” and Son of 
God, has transcended this very moment, the aporia of human existence, and 
has crossed the border to the other side, thus resolving the dilemma of uncer¬ 
tainty and not knowing. But this does not help us as human beings in the first 
instance. To harbor the desire to circumvent our human predicament by aban¬ 
doning the notion of aporia through moving swiftly from the Cross to the 
Resurrection does not provide us with relief either because the border of death 
still exists. The women at the empty tomb of Christ were the first ones to be 
confronted with this “diastatic dilemma.”^ In Mark’s gospel, the women can¬ 
not conceive of the fact of Christ’s resurrection and the situation which it cre¬ 
ated for them as they flee “from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized 
them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid” (Mk 16:8; NRSV). 
When they did not find Jesus’ body in the expected place, they felt “fear and 
great joy” (Mt 28:8) while being perplexed as they return from the tomb (Lk 
24:3-4; 9). As the Greek text indicates, these women were the first “aporia-ed- 
ones” (Lk 24:4; kai egeneto en to aporeisthai autasperi toutou ...) of the post- 
Easter-Gememde who now were confronted with a life to be lived in what Karl 
Barth once called Hohlraum (1922:35; [ET, 57]). Jesus was risen indeed. How¬ 
ever, his resurrection neither provided clarity of mind nor heart for the hu¬ 
man beings who remained behind. On the contrary, they were thrust into the 
whirlpool of intellectual and spiritual turmoil, being amazed, terrified, over¬ 
joyed and afraid, all at the same time. 

It is in this place, in the aporia of human post-Easter existence, that this 
essay wants to linger, together with the women who emerged on Easter 
morning from an empty tomb into a life of incertitude. We receive initial 
assistance in the contemporary task of exploring the diastatic dilemma or 
Hohlraum of human existence, not in the first instance from Christian theo¬ 
logians (as we might expect), but from the philosophical corner of decon¬ 
struction, particularly from Jacques Derrida, whose overarching disposition 
has recently been associated with a profound desire for the religious, the 
messianic, and the prophetic.® Perhaps theology can gain fresh insight by 

7 “A ‘diastasis’ is a separation that also at the same time involves a falling into 
place, as with a bone that is separated but without fracture. This dilemma in 
reference to God is ‘diastatic’ because it prompts us to think of God as occupy¬ 
ing a place betwixt and between our own reality and God’s reality, a ‘place’ that is 
‘no place’” (Johnson 1997:19). 

8 Caputo (i997;xix) talks about deconstruction in terms of an “overarching 
aspiration... a religious or prophetic aspiration... a movement of ‘transcen- 



viewing the aporia of human existence through the spectacles of the apoca¬ 
lyptic longing of deconstruction, a longing which in return might fuel the 
fire of theology in its ultimate search: the search for the Reign of God, indeed 
of Godself .9 It will remain to be seen whether deconstruction, according to 
the Jewish French philosopher Jacques Derrida’s notion of the NewArrivant, 
can provide us in this task with a hermeneutical key or if Christian theology’s 
flickering flame will be rekindled through deconstruction’s apocalyptic long¬ 
ing by returning us to a New Testament understanding of the parousia of 
Jesus Christ. 

Derrida shares our curiosity. He begins his reflections on the subject of 
aporia with a rather enigmatic statement: “Dying—awaiting (one another 
at) the ‘limits of truth’” (Derrida i993:v). How is this possible? How can one 
cross the borders, or the limits, of truth? According to Derrida, the question 
points one to the fact that truth is simply limited, finite and confined. In 
other words, one could conclude from this statement that truth is not every¬ 
thing, that there is something better behind truth. If this were the ease, then 
truth would be finite and finished, and so would Derrida’s reflections. How¬ 
ever, the answer is not quite as simple. 

Each particular human being lives a particular life story which is com¬ 
prised of two elements: birth and death. The narrative discourse that arises 
regarding the issues of being born, dying, death and the space in between 
these limits at the bottom of the crater consists of a “rhetoric of borders” 
(Derrida 1993:3). The human being does not own the property rights over 
the space in between birth and death, a.k.a. life, and has to be content with 

dence’... the exceeding of the stable borders of the presently possible... a pas¬ 
sion for transgression, a passion for trespassing the horizons of possibility... a 
passion to go precisely where you cannot go... hoping in a certain messianic 
promise of the impossible.”' 

9 “The incoming of deconstruction upon religion and theology, the advent of 
deconstruction in theology, turns theology around to the future, to what is com¬ 
ing, which returns theology to what it was meant to be all along, quid quod erat 
esse, before the wilderness camp of the prophets was overrun by Eleatic 
ontotheologigians, before their prophetic desert voices were drowned by an ex¬ 
cessively Hellenistic logos.... what if... theology returns the favor and reinvents 
deconstruction so that deconstruction turns out just the way of translating the 
prophets, of giving prophetic passion a new turn?... Might not the invention of 
the other turn out to be, in the final accounting, beyond all ontotheology, the 
invention of God, the God of the invention, the expectation of the incoming of 
the kingdom? Watch (out)” (Caputo 1997:115). 

Heinzl: The Aporia of Existence 


the fact that the right of absolute property is limited. The logical question 
following this assertion is: Who, then, is the master of one’s life? With the 
notion that one’s life might be governed by an other, or Other, arises the 
anxiety and fear that results from the loss of control, a fear that contributes 
to little deaths along each step of life’s journey. The human being seems to 
always die before his or her time. Death, from the point of view of the human 
being, is always immature and premature because it is imminent at every 
instance. The threat, or simply the reality, that death can occur at any mo¬ 
ment in one’s life evokes in the human being the reaction of deference, i.e. 
the denial of one’s mortality. The human being does not want to face up to 
the fact that s/he has to die . 

How, then, is it possible to speak about this immature and premature situ¬ 
ation into which the human being is locked? Contrary to common under¬ 
standing, the aporia of human existence as the passage from life to death is 
not characterized by a single act or action like the crossing of a line, a depar¬ 
ture or ^ separatioUj but can best be interpreted as ongoing process. ^Ts not 
death, like decease, the crossing of a border, that is, a trespassing on death 
[un trepas]ySLn overstepping or a transgression (transire, 'sic transit,' etc.)?” 
(Derrida 1993:6) Instead of being cut off abruptly from life by death, Derrida 
suggests that the human being penetrates (perao), traverses across the bor¬ 
der by penetrating into the khora, the place that is no place (eis chOfan), and 
in traversing by penetrating into the khora, s/he arrives on the other side 
(eis to peran). This crossing-over motif is not a new word play invented by 
the deconstructionist’s mind. It is at least as old as Sophocles’ “Oedipus” and 
appears in the Synoptic gospel traditions as well. And the questions that arise 
from reflection on this motif ar'O also indent ones: How is this crossing- 
over possible? Who has ever crossed the borders and, more importantly, who 
can testify to this crossing? 

From one point of view, the croSsing-over the border to the other side is 
not possible. The limit or boundary does not yield and refuses the human 
being entry; the passage is denied. However, Derrida does not think that 
one has to capitukte in light of this fact because the impossible passage is 
somehow transformed into an event of coming that opens up a passageway 
for the aporia of human existence. “The T enter,’ crossing the threshold, this 
T pass’ (perao) puts us on the path... of the aporos or of the aporia. .. the 
impossible passage, the refused, denied, prohibited passage,... the non-pas- 
sage, which can in fact be something eIse,Uhe event of a coming or of a future 
event.... It would be the ‘coming to pass’ of an event” (Derrida 1993:8). As a 



result of this opening, the possibility of the impossible confronts the inter¬ 
preter with the problem of projection or protection or, to speak in 
Heideggerian terms, the problem of task or shelter. This is exactly the prob¬ 
lematic of the border. This dilemma, however, creates tension within the 
aporia of existence. At the point of crossing over the threshold, at the border 
of human existence which is death, the human being does not know his or 
her direction anymore. There is no more shelter that can be sought and no 
more tasks that can be performed. The human being is completely exposed 
and vulnerable in the face of death. 

But can one speak of an “experience” of the aporia of human existence? 
If it is a place that is no place, if it is a place to which the human being is 
confined all his or her life, how is an experience possible that would not be 
an experience of the aporia? There are two sides to this concept, the “double 
concept of the border” (Derrida 1993:18). On the one hand, the aporia of 
human existence is a door that does not open, or that can be only unlocked 
by a secret. On the other hand, it is a non-passage that has no limits and no 
borders. In the latter case, then, there were no borders to be crossed, and 
even the transgression would be subject to sublation. If the aporia of human 
existence constitutes a non-passage without borders, the possibility of jour¬ 
neying down a path such as this is obliterated: there is no more process of 
moving from one place and time across the border into another. There is no 
more “... trans- (transport, transgression, translation, and even transcen¬ 
dence) (21). There is no more passageway, no more method. Like a pilgrim 
in a barren land, the human being is confronted by his or her own death 
without a center or foundation upon which s/he can stand, and the inquiry 
concerning his or her own death becomes, at best, difficult to answer. 

To be sure, the human being is challenged by the impinging and recur¬ 
ring questioning about his or her own personal, individual death as my death. 
As such, my death is wedged as a hapax legomenon between the particular 
moment of the individual, and the particular moment of each particular other 
individual. My death bears the possibility to become everybody’s death. “My 
death [is certainly said] one time each time, indefinitely only one time” 
(Derrida 1993:22). An inherent trait of this possibility, according to Derrida, 
consists in the strange and unsettling notion that at every border of the 
aporia of human existence, there is a light that flashes like a “nightwatchman 
or nightlight” (24). This light that flashes at the border in the waning mo¬ 
ments of one’s biological life, a bios lodged in cronos, is the light of death, 
which demarcates the threshold of the crossing-over or transgression. 

Heinzl: The Aporia of Existence 


However, the death of the human being, of Dasein (to use Heidegger’s 
terminology), is not the end. It simply provides a border which exists at 
the limes of the aporia of human existence through which the human 
being journeys like a nomad moving among the desert sands of one’s 
life, never at any point sure of the direction which s/he is about to take.^° 
When the human being embarks on this ancient road, traveling toward 
the ultimate border of dying and death, s/he perishes as his or her life is 
ebbing away in the process of the closing in of the line that was invisibly 
drawn in this desert sand. This passage that appears to be a non-passage 
in the end is a secret, a mystery buried underneath the dunes of time, 
which is yet to be un-covered and re-coveredd^ not through inquiry into 
the noetic or the ontic, but substantiated by an apocalyptic longing be¬ 
cause what is to be expected in the moment of crossing-over cannot be 
subject to knowledge. Perhaps there is nothing that comes to pass in this 

Driven by his apocalyptic longing, Derrida, however, is quick to point 
out that, in his opinion, there must be more to the crossing-over of the 
threshold than nothing, more than a movement into sheer nothingness. 
If a passageway over onto the other side exists, there must also be some¬ 
thing on this other side. This something Derrida names the “New 
Arrivanr (Derrida 1993:30). 

It is interesting to note that this New Arrivanty which Derrida conjures 
up, signifies the neutrality of that which arrives and characterizes the singu¬ 
larity of the one who arrives. Thus, the encounter with the one who arrives, 
and arrives unexpectedly, becomes a personal and individual one. The 

10 “Isn’t the desert a paradoxical figure of the aporia? No [pas de] marked 
out [trace] or assured passage, no route in any case; at the very most trails that 
are not reliable ways, the paths are not yet cleared [frayes]^ unless the sand has 
already re-covered them. But isn’t the uncleared way also the condition of deci¬ 
sion or event, which consists in opening the way, in (sur)passing, thus in going 
beyond?” (Coward and Foshay 1992:299). 

11 “How can a path pass through the aporias? What would a path be without 
aporia? Would there be a way [voie] without what clears the way there where the 
way is not opened, whether it is blocked or still buried in the nonway?” (Coward 
and Foshay 1992:320). 

“... the death of Dasein... is the limit of the ending, the place where, in a way, 
the ending ends” (Derrida 1992:30). 



apocalyptic longing for the encounter with the New Arrivant, the one who is 
other, appears to be another significant element of deconstruction.^^ Fur¬ 
thermore, this event, the arrival and the encounter with the New Arrivant, 
impacts the very perception and experience of the threshold. There is light, 
not only at the border as watch-light, but also on the other side. This light 
invites, calls, gives a name, and shows forth a promise. It is a light that pro¬ 
claims the arrival, not of any but of the “arrivant par excellence,... absolute 
arrivant” (Derrida 1993:34). The absolute arrivant neither has a place, nor a 
language, nor a home. The one who arrives in singularity is yet to be identified 
by the one who will be hosting it; and thus, calls everything prior to its ar¬ 
rival radically into question. “He [the new arrivant] surprises the host [the 
human being]... enough to call into question, to the point of annihilating 
or rendering indeterminate, all the distinctive signs of a prior identity.... 
The absolute arrivant does not yet have a name or an identity” (34). What 
lies behind the border, after the crossing-over of the threshold, on the other 
side is already in the coming toward the human being and can only be 
identified as it makes itself known to the human being. 

The New Arrivant might not have an identity yet which is disclosed to 
the human being, but it is also not an intruder or a stranger, not someone 
who violates the human being through an act of aggression. On the contrary, 
the new and absolute arrivant will assist the human being in realizing his or 
her full potential, a potential of which s/he is not able to speak prior to the 
arrival or the coming of it. “It [the new arrivant] makes possible everything 
to which... it cannot be reduced, starting with the humanity of man...” 
(Derrida 1993:35)- 

Hence, the human being is also incapable of uttering any truth con¬ 
cerning that which lies beyond the border. Although the human being 
knows that death awaits at the crossing-over of the threshold, death as such 
remains concealed to life as such and to speech as such. This is the aporia 
of human existence, the “Dying—awaiting (one another at) the ‘limits of 
truth’” (Derrida 1993: title page). 

The waiting for one another at the limits of truth invariably happens on 
this side of the threshold, since the human being cannot cross over from the 
aporia of the this-worldly experience to the beyond. Thus, the aporia of hu¬ 
man existence remains always here, on this side, in any case. There is no 

12 Deconstruction means “... to prepare oneself for this coming (venue) of 
the other...” (Caputo 1997:73). 

Heinzl: The Aporia of Existence 


exception. Death, then, becomes for Derrida the human possibility par ex¬ 
cellence. If this is true, then the “... being-possible is the being proper to 
Daseiriy then the existential analysis of the death of Dasein will have to make 
of this possibility its theme.... [which becomes the essential impossible pos¬ 
sibility for] with death, Dasein has a rendezvous with itself’ (1993: 63-6). 
Ultimately, however, death must remain undisclosed to the human being. Its 
border cannot be crossed and communication with that which lies beyond 
the border is impossible from this side. Death is not so much an insurmount¬ 
able wall that forbids one entry, as if it were a mist or fog which cannot be 
penetrated by the eye of the human being. It is the undiscovered country 
that lies hidden in its reality, that is veiled in its unveiling. This death, which 
awaits the human being at the limits of the aporia of his or her life (-time) 
must in any case be faced as my death. 

Thus, death must always remain a mystery as the sign of “irreplaceable 
singularity” (74). Even the New Arrivant, who is coming toward the human 
being from the other side of the border and who is about to illumine and 
bestow real identity onto the human being, will fail to un-cover and re-cover 
this mystery of the aporia of human existence. For it is only in the anticipa¬ 
tion and expectation of the coming, the Viens, as in Revelation’s 22:20 “Come, 
Lord Jesus!” that the apocalyptic and messianic longing finds its realization. 
The New Arrivant, the messiah, is never actually supposed to arrive. “If the 
Messiah actually showed up... that would ruin everything. The very idea of 
the Messiah is that he is to come, a venir,.. . not that he would ever actually 
arrive” (Caputo 1997:74-8). Derrida is neither interested in any incarnation 
of this arrivant par excellence nor in his or her parousia because, as he is 
convinced, the Viens of the apocalyptic longing has no correlation in hu¬ 
man history. Thus, the notion of a New Arrivant, who flashes like a night 
light at the crossing-over of the threshold onto the other side, becomes noth¬ 
ing other than the continuation of Derrida’s deconstructive endless play of 
meaning(s). The actual arrival of the absolute arrivant is never expected to 
become historical reality, there is no New Arrivant in the flesh, no Messiah, 
no God-Human Being. Deconstruction’s, and in particular Derrida’s, un¬ 
derstanding of this figure bears no characteristic of a Reconciler or Re¬ 
deemer in the Judeo-Christian sense at all. Rather, this mysterious entity, 
without name and identity, resembles more a play-maker who keeps the 
deconstructionist wrecking-ball in the game of philosophical and theologi¬ 
cal discourse. And this, perhaps, might just be the intention of Derrida’s 
deconstruction in order to rekindle and fuel the fire of the apocalyptic long- 



ing of Judeo-Christian theology that appears to have lain dormant for a long 

The German scholar Knittermeyer describes the term aporia (Aporie) 
in Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart as ''Weglosigkeit, Verlegenheit, 
RadosigkeitA (1957:496). It characterizes a situation where there is no path 
anymore, where one is confused and embarrassed about not knowing; thus, 
one is being thrown into perplexity and utter helplessness by the uncom¬ 
fortable disturbance {unbequeme Stbrung) caused by the aporia of human 
existence. No path, no crossing-over of the threshold, no awaiting one an¬ 
other at the limits of truth, of the limits of a life (-time). And although the 
prayers and tears of the French deconstructionist Jacques Derrida cannot 
penetrate the veil of dying and death, they can remind Judeo-Christian the¬ 
ology that the passageway through the aporia of human existence, permeat¬ 
ing the border of dying and death, leads exactly through the valley of prayers 
and tears (Ps 23:4). 

To be sure, this passageway through the valley of prayers and tears is no 
ordinary one. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, the prayers that human be¬ 
ings utter and the tears that they shed are not merely expressions of human 
emotions regarding the aporia of their existence. For Jews, they are trans¬ 
formed into the prayers and tears of God through the prophets of the He¬ 
brew scriptures, and for Christians, they are identified with the tears and 
bloody sweat of Jesus of Nazareth in the Garden of Gethsemane (Pelikan 
1961:50). Perhaps Derrida wants to refer back to this rudimentary under¬ 
standing of human existence, and perhaps Judeo-Christian theology would 
do well to take heed to his apocalyptic longing filled with the prayers and 
tears of old. 

Regardless whether Jewish theology listens in on the words of the pro¬ 
phetic discourses of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Amos and Hosea, or Chris¬ 
tian theology to the parables of Jesus Christ and the preaching of Peter and 
Paul: The theologians of both traditions are called upon to listen to the word 
of God, which does not provide them with a way around the fear of the valley 
of the shadow of death, but a way through this valley of death in order to find 
the good path of life in God (Pelikan 1961:50). Indeed, the apocalyptic long¬ 
ing concerning the threshold of the aporia of human existence is not a phe¬ 
nomenon conjured up by the intellectual elite of the outgoing twentieth 
century but its ripples reverberate through chronological time, as the 
reflections of the early church father Cyprian demonstrate, who wrote: “We 
pass by death to immortality nor can eternal life succeed unless it has be- 

Heinzl: The Aporia of Existence 


fallen us to depart from here. This is not an end, but a passage, and, the jour¬ 
ney of time being traversed, a crossing over to eternity” (Pelikan 1961:6o; 
emphasis added). 

At this bifurcation, we must depart from Jewish theology and leave it to 
wrestle with Derrida’s questions concerning the New Arrivant and his un¬ 
derstanding of the messiah^^ as we turn our attention to the questions of 
Christian theology. Borrowing once more from Jacques Derrida’s terminol¬ 
ogy, the border at the limits of truth of life (-time) needs a nightwatchperson 
who illumines the limes between life and death. For the Christian, the light 
in the night of the aporia of human existence presents itself as a shadow, the 
shadow of the cross of Jesus Christ at Golgotha that thrusts humanity into 
the place that is no place. This uncomfortable disturbance proves to be more 
powerful than any meteor physically impacting on earth’s surface, a distur¬ 
bance that Karl Barth once identified as the Great Disturbance, Die Grofie 
Storung, in human history in his Romerbrief (1922:447). It is in this place 
that the human being lives in fear and trembling, ravaged by nations in dis¬ 
tress and tossed back and forth by the waves of the roaring sea (Lk 21:25). 
Exactly through this place the human being must traverse, crossing the 
threshold of death into the unknown territory in prayerful and tearful an¬ 
ticipation, trusting that there is not only a shadow on this side of the Resur¬ 
rection, but that the True Light is to be found on the other side. Into this 
country the Christian, and with him or her all humanity, must venture in 
order to find the good path, which is the way, the truth and the life. 

Although the New Testament remains silent about the crossing of the 
border at the limits of truth—there is absolute silence about Jesus’ thirty-six 
hours in the tomb, “... the silence of irreparable rupture; those 36 hours of 
historical reality when a decomposing corpse was all that remained of Jesus, 
Son of David, Son of God...” (Lewis 1986:336-62)—it permits a fleeting 
glimpse at the light that flashes on the other side (Lk 24:1-9). When the 
women came to the tomb on the first day of the week, they found the stone 
that had sealed off the secret of Holy Saturday rolled away from the entrance. 
Here, God allows the human being in his or her aporia of existence entry 
into the mist looming beyond the border after Jesus’ death and resurrection. 
The entry into the place of death changes their perception of the event of 

13 However, the dialogue between Jewish and Christian theologians regard¬ 
ing Derrida’s questions would prove, in my opinion, to be a most fruitful one in 
the future. 



death, about which no one can speak, forever. They expected Jesus’ body lain 
in the cold grave, but there was no body to be found once they had entered. 
Humanity exchanged one place of aporia for another, for when the women 
saw the empty tomb, they were in a state of being perplexed, i.e. “aporia-ed 
ones.” The pre-Easter aporia of human existence has been exchanged for 
the post-Easter one. Thus, the crossing-over of the threshold at the limits of 
truth or life (-time) is a truly diastatic dilemma, for it appears to not be re¬ 
solved on either side of the Resurrection. 

But although the women at and in the tomb experience an emotional 
roller-coaster ride between terror, fear, joy, amazement and perplexity, they 
are also permitted to watch the dark cloud—that shadow cast by the cross 
over the aporia of human existence—move aside and glimpse at the new 
reality ushered in through this earthshaking event; an event that illumined 
all other events of history and rendered them intelligible (Niebuhr 1941:68). 
God’s angels, arrayed in dazzling clothes, described the new reality beyond 
the border to them: “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is 
not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in 
Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and to be 
crucified, and on the third day to rise again” (Lk 24:5b-7). Thus, this new re¬ 
ality beyond the border is always veiled in its unveiling. Throughout the 
scriptures, the coming of the new reality had been foreshadowed: First 
through Moses, who, as he came down the Mount of Sinai with the two tab¬ 
lets of the covenant with God in his hand, did not know that the skin of his 
face shone because he had been talking with God (Ex 34:29-35). Then, 
through Jesus Christ’s metamorphosis on the Mount of Transfiguration, 
when his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach 
them (Mk 9:1-8). And finally, it was proclaimed by the angels at the tomb 
who were arrayed in dazzling clothes. As the human face must remain veiled 
in God’s presence, God’s presence nevertheless shines forth in unimagin¬ 
able glory, piercing every corner of the night by setting a beacon at the bor¬ 
der of the crossing-over of the threshold, blinding human eyes. 

The unknown territory that is so frightening from this side of the thresh¬ 
old is empty. Instead of death, through which humanity must pass, there is 
the good path of life that is to be found through the resurrection of Jesus 
Christ. All of a sudden, after having seen the new reality with their own eyes, 
the women, blinded as they were, recalled that Christ had spoken to them 
about this new reality earlier. And as they returned from the tomb to the apo¬ 
ria of their human existence under the shadow of the cross, they brought the 

Heinzl: The Aporia of Existence 


light from the other side of the border with them, remembering and telling 
the eleven and all the rest that Jesus Christ had indeed crushed death. The 
nadir of death through which humanity had to pass with Christ lies behind 
the valley of the shadow of death and is in the process of being lifted up on 
the other side through the Coming One (Pelikan 1961:13). Here, Christian 
theologians must utter a definitive and affirmative statement regarding the 
arrival of the Coming One in history in response to Derrida’s notion that all 
would be spoiled were the New Arrivant, the messiah, actually to arrive. Yes, 
indeed the Coming One, the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, has truly and really 
arrived in history for, with, in and among human beings! 

Karl Barth described this event as the threefold coming again of Jesus 
Christ (CD, YV/y.290-6). For Barth, the Easter event is the pivotal moment 
in history in which Jesus Christ is revealed as the One who was, is, and will 
be the same, yesterday, today, and forever (Heb 13:8). He is the light, to para¬ 
phrase Barth in Derridean language, who shines into the world as a nightlight 
at the crossing-over of the threshold from beyond and who will never be 
extinguished. This parousia of Jesus Christ consists of the “effective pres¬ 
ence” of God, who manifests Godself in the covenant with human beings. 
What was once veiled is now unveiled in the carpenter from Galilee, who 
was born, who lived, who died, and who will come again. Barth understands 
this unfolding of the divine drama in history to be “one continuous event” 
that is acted out in a threefold way. The first mode consists of the “Easter 
event” itself.The second mode pertains to the outpouring of Christ’s spirit. 
His return in the Holy Spirit as the mode of His Pentecostal coming. And 
the final mode, which will seal the continuous event of Christ’s coming in 
history, belongs to that day that has been promised from of old when all 
things will be made new. Just as Barth affirms that the three persons of the 
Godhead are one and distinct at the same time, he interprets the threefold 
coming of Christ as one event, parousia, which is acted out in three distinct 
modes: resurrection, outpouring of the spirit, and coming again, all of which 
are characterized by their eschatological reality. “The happening of the 
parousia is thus eschatological throughout its course” (CD Wly.290-6). 

However, in the meantime, in the midst of the eschatological reality of 
Christ’s having come, coming, and coming again, humanity is destined to 

14 Barth (CD 1X^/3:290-296) writes: “... so that we might be tempted to de¬ 
scribe the whole event simply as one long fulfillment of the resurrection of Jesus 



live in a place that is no place called world, where rain still falls on the just 
and the unjust alike. Trapped in the aporia of human existence, the human 
being is allowed to behold one faint beacon of grace and hope that flashes at 
the border between life and death, at the limit of truth or life (-time). This 
beacon, Jesus Christ the Coming one, can shine at the limits of truth be¬ 
cause he himself is the Truth. Behold the glory of God! Under the shadow of 
the cross, all truth is thrust into no place. However, in the reality of the light 
that shines in the night of the aporia of human existence, these same truths 
fade into nothingness as they are left behind at the border of death. Chris¬ 
tian theology’s New Arrivant, who is also its Reconciler and Redeemer, who 
comes to humanity from beyond the border to give human beings their true 
identity, the one who calls humanity by its name, has a name of his own: as 
Christian theologians we call him Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior. He 
is the Coming one, o erchomenos, whose Advent, whose coming toward us, 
will shatter all final borders, limits and thresholds. This event, too, is veiled in 
its unveiling, as the One whom we call Jesus Christ is the only One who 
knows his true and real name (Rev 19:11-16). It is a reality in which one does 
not have to wonder why the women at the tomb where struck with terror, 
fear and amazement. 

Ultimately, however, the new reality that is ushered in by the parousia of 
the Coming One is no secret, no mystery, as Paul wrote to the Corinthians 
almost two-thousand years ago: “For it is God who said: ‘Let light shine out 
of darkness,’ who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge 
of the day of glory of God in Jesus Christ... We are afflicted in everyway, but 
not crushed; perplexed (aporia-ed ones— aporoumenoi), but not driven to 
despair;... always carrying in the body the death of Jesus... For while we 
live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of 
Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh” (2 Cor 4:6-11). Jesus Christ, 
the Great Disturbance of history, illumines with his blinding light the aporia 
of human existence as the New Arrivant who truly and really arrives and 
who will return humanity again to the place that is its home, and restore its 
identity that is lost on this side of the limits of truth and life (-time). The 
Coming One reminds humanity that this place is no place but has a name. 
Its name is God. 

Heinzl: The Aporia of Existence 



Barth, Karl 




Die kirchliche Dogmatik. Miinchen: Chr. Kaiser. 

Zurich: EVZ. 

[ET] Church Dogmatics. Trans. Geoffrey Bromiley. 
Edinburgh: T. 8c T. Clark. 


Der Romerbrief Zweite Fassung. Zurich: Theologischer 
Verlag Zurich. 

Caputo, John D. 


The Prayers and Tears of Jacques Derrida: Religion without 
Religion. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. 

Coward, Harold and Foshay, Toby (Eds.) 

1992 Derrida and Negative Theology. Albany: State University 

Derrida, Jacques 


of New York Press. 

Aporias. Trans. Thomas Dutoit. Stanford: Stanford 
University Press. 

Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc. 

1986 Webster’s Third New International Dictionary of the 

English Language. Vol I. Chicago. 

Johnson, William Stacy 

1997 The Mystery of God: Karl Barth and the Postmodern 

Foundations of Theology. Louisville: Westminster John 
Knox Press. 

Knittermeyer, Alois 


Aporie. In Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart, ed. 
Kurt Galling, vol. I, A-C. Tubingen: J.C.B. Mohr. 

Lewis, Alan E. 

“The Burial of God: Rupture and Resumption As the 
Story of Salvation.” Scottish Journal of Theology 40:336-62 


“Apocalypse and Parousia: The Anguish of Theology 
from Now till Kingdom Come.” Inaugural Address. The 
Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary Bulletin 103/8 



McCormack, Bruce L. 

1995 Karl Barth's Critically Realistic Dialectical Theology: Its 

Genesis and Development 1909-19^6. Oxford: Clarendon 
Press, [paperback: 1997]. 

Nestle, Eberhard and Aland Kurt 

1979 Novum Testamentum Graece. 26. Aufiage. Stuttgart: 

Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft. 

Niebuhr, H. Richard 

1941 The Meaning of Revelation. New York: Macmillan. 

Pelikan, Jaroslav 

1961 The Shape of Death: Life, Death, and Immortality in the 

Early Fathers. New York: Abingdon Press. 

KOINONIA XI/l (1999) 65-102 

To Teach As the Evangelists Did? 

An Experiment in New Testament Theology 



Let the faithful labor and collaborate with all others in the 
proper regulation of the affairs of economic and social life. With 
special care, let them devote themselves to the education of children 
and young people by means of different kinds of schools. These 
schools should be considered not only as an outstanding means for 
forming and developing Christian youth, but also as a service of 
supreme value to humankind, especially in the developing nations, a 
service elevating the level of human dignity, and preparing the way 
for living conditions which are more humane {Ad gentes [Vatican II 
Decree on Missionary Activity in the Church] :par. 12 ). 

The Church’s involvement in the field of education is demonstrated 
especially by the Catholic school. No less than other schools does 
the Catholic school pursue cultural goals and the natural develop¬ 
ment of youth. But it has several distinctive purposes. It aims to 
create for the school community an atmosphere enlivened by the 
gospel spirit of freedom and charity. It aims to help the adolescent in 
such a way that the development of his or her own personality will be 
matched by the growth of that new creation which he or she became 
by baptism. It strives to relate all human culture eventually to the 
news of salvation, so that the light of faith will illumine the knowl¬ 
edge which students gradually gain of the world, of life, and of hu¬ 
mankind {Gravissimum educationis [Vatican II Declaration on Chris¬ 
tian Education]:par. 8).^ 

1 Translations of the documents of the Second Vatican Council have been 
adapted from Abbott (1966). They have been modified to render them in inclu¬ 
sive language. 



The above documents from the Second Vatican Council of the Roman 
Catholic Church offer a portrait of the Catholic school as a privileged place 
wherein two central Christian interests converge: the proclamation of the 
gospel and service to humankind. By implication the bishops of the Council 
viewed such schools as a response not only to social needs but also to the 
missionary mandate given by Jesus to the church. That is, they seem to pos¬ 
tulate a mission directed specifically to education, distinct from either 
“straightforward” preaching of the gospel message or “straightforward” ser¬ 
vice on behalf of the community—an “educational mission” at the intersec¬ 
tion of evangelism and social concern. The American bishops’ first pastoral 
letter devoted entirely to Christian education, entitled To Teach as Jesus Did 
(hereafter T/D), makes this connection explicit: “Within both the Christian 
community and the educational ministry the mission to teach as Jesus did 
is a dynamic mandate for Christians of all times, places, and conditions” (par. 
4).^ Whereas the Council documents do not invoke scripture in their dis¬ 
cussion of Catholic schools—instead relying on the familiar church and 
world language from Gaudium et spes —the American bishops appeal to Jn 
14:5-7 (“I am the way, and the truth, and the life...”) to justify the mission 
and to three further texts to lend it a distinctive shape. They define this shape 
under the rubrics message (Jn 12:49-50), community (Jn 13:34-35), and ser¬ 
vice in the world (Jn 13:13-15; T/D:par. 5,15, 21, 27). These texts are quoted 
without commentary or context, as though they provide a self-evident basis 
for the proposed shape of Catholic education. Those familiar with contem¬ 
porary biblical scholarship on the Fourth Gospel might find this ironic. On 
the one hand, the Gospel of John, unlike other NT voices such as Luke-Acts, 
does not possess an entirely unambiguous missionary mandate for its dis¬ 
ciples (see Kostenberger 1998:5-16); on the other, its polemical language 
likely reveals a community more isolated from “the world” than any other 
represented in the NT (see, e.g., Culpepper 1975:288-9). From both observa¬ 
tions, an “educational mission” for Catholic or other Christian schools with 
full liberal arts curricula and religiously diverse student bodies appears re¬ 
mote from the author’s perspective. When viewed in the broader context of 
John’s thought, the quoted texts may well be unable to support the weight 
that the bishops wish to place upon them. 

This criticism, however, need not mean that NT authors have nothing to 
offer such a hypothesized “educational mission.” In this study, I explore pos- 

2 This letter is published in Connell (1996:79-116). 

Locklin: To Teach As the Evangelists Did? 


sible resources for Christian education as an aspect of missionary activity 
in the Gospel of John and the Acts of the Apostles. I proceed in three steps. 
First, by appealing to recent sociocultural and narrative studies of the two 
books, I establish the relevance of these texts to the task of education. Sec¬ 
ond, through a comparison of key passages from the farewell discourse of 
John and from the first five chapters of Acts, I discern major themes perti¬ 
nent to identity, mission, and community in each evangelist’s social and lit¬ 
erary world. Finally, I offer some reflections on the theological significance 
of Luke and John for a Catholic or other Christian “educational mission” by 
returning to the American bishops’ statement. Throughout, my emphasis will 
fall not on Jesus as a “model educator,”^ but rather on the evangelists as “model 
educators” of the communities to which they wrote.^ In the course of this 
analysis, comprising theoretical background, exegetical interpretation, and 
practical application, I will attempt to explore what it might mean to “teach 
as the evangelists taught.” Before proceeding, however, two brief notes are 

First, a note on method. The question of how best to appropriate and use 
biblical texts for the purposes of theology and ethics has become a thorny 
issue in contemporary scholarship; indeed, entire monographs and whole 
panels at the American Academy of Religion address this question exclu¬ 
sively, yet no clear consensus seems likely to emerge. On one side of the spec¬ 
trum, theologians frequently find themselves indicted for “proof-texting,” 
citing isolated passages in the course of an argument without any attention 
to literary or historical context. On the other side, theologians sometimes 
grow impatient with an actual or imagined unwillingness on the part of bib¬ 
lical scholars to move outside the narrative sequence or historical context of 
a given text. How then to proceed? I attempt below, particularly in the cen¬ 
tral exegetical portion of the essay, to steer a middle course, moving fluidly 
between the two evangelists’ texts, painting first in broad strokes and then 
more carefully at the level of short passages selected in accord with a given 
theme. Biblical scholars might find this back and forth movement disorient- 

3 For studies of this type, see Sawicki (i988:esp. 41-68), the intriguing discus¬ 
sion of the “School of Jesus” in Culpepper (1975:215-46), and further references 
in Pazmino (1988:32-4). 

4 For the purposes of this study, I use “Luke” and “John” to refer to the au¬ 
thors and/or redactors who placed Luke-Acts and the Fourth Gospel in their 
final forms. 



ing and may further ask whether the questions I pose condition the answers 
that I receive. Theologians, on the other hand, may find the attention to rel¬ 
evant terms and images within their narrative contexts distracting or even 
unnecessary to the argument of the piece. I can only answer that the poten¬ 
tial gain of such a method outweighs, in my judgment, the potential liabili¬ 
ties incurred therefrom. Through this treatment, attentive to each passage’s 
discrete contribution to our reflections without thereby losing sight of its 
relationship to the whole, 1 hope to “break open” the evangelists’ texts with¬ 
out doing violence to them. 

Next, a personal note. As a Roman Catholic Christian with some profes¬ 
sional experience in both Catholic mission and secular teaching environ¬ 
ments in the United States, I naturally perceive my investigation primarily 
within a context particular not only to Roman Catholicism but also more 
specifically to the American Church. At the same time, I hope that its conse¬ 
quences will extend beyond narrow denominational or regional interests. I 
must leave it to readers to make appropriate applications to their own con¬ 

These points having been acknowledged, we are ready to turn to the two 
figures and texts who will function as models for the church’s “educational 
mission,” as hypothesized by the bishops. Who are these educators, and how 
do they proceed? 


At first glance, John and Luke-Acts seem to have little in common. In his 
study of the Johannine community, for example, Raymond Brown notes 
sharp differences between John and the synoptics in both christology and 
ecclesiology (1979:85-8). Behind the immediate and obvious differences, 
however, may lie common strands. In the early seventies Oscar Cullmann 
proposed a historical connection between the Hellenists recorded in Acts 
6:1 ff. and the Johannine community, both with common roots in a “hetero¬ 
dox Judaism” opposed to the Jerusalem temple (1975:41-56). In a more re¬ 
cent article C. K. Barrett refutes the specific details of Cullmann’s historical 
hypothesis (1996:164-9). At the same time, he proposes several areas in 
which the two works as literary products do show considerable affinity. First, 
both diminish the “futurist” eschatological expectation characteristic of other 

Locklin: To Teach As the Evangelists Did? 


NT writers: while John moves the eschatological future into the present, Luke 
places it in the distant future (169). Second, both portray a witnessing com¬ 
munity empowered by the Holy Spirit after Jesus’ departure (170-3). Finally, 
despite their striking differences in christology, these two evangelists share 
the image of Jesus’ ascending or being “lifted up” in or shortly after the pas¬ 
sion, and both generally lack sacrificial interpretations of this event (174- 
6 ).5 For both, salvation moves from the eschatological end of time into the 
present reality of believers (cf. Culpepper 1983:87-9; Powell 1989:80-1). All of 
these characteristics highlight the role of the communities that received these 
texts. Cullmann offers the following summary: 

In each individual event of the life of the incarnate Jesus the evangelist 
[John] seeks to show that at the same time the Christ present in his 
church is already at work. Thus from each narrative he draws out the 
line leading to the risen Christ who is at work in every activity of his 
community.... Luke [on the other hand] maintains a perspective of 
chronological sequence and therefore takes another course: the first 
volume of his work tells of the work accomplished by the ‘historical’ 
Jesus, the second of what he continues through his disciples (1975:14). 

For the purposes of this essay, it is enough to assert that both Luke and John 
reveal an explicit concern both for their respective communities’ continu¬ 
ity with Jesus and for their continued survival into an indeterminate future. 
This seems logically to entail the need for some form of education or social 
transmission. Two strands of biblical scholarship—sociocultural analysis and 
narrative criticism—offer further insight into this dimension of the evan¬ 
gelists’ work. 

Sociocultural Analysis: The “Why” of Education 

Some recent scholarship on the NT, led by such figures as Wayne Meeks 
(1972), John Gager (1975), and Howard Clark Kee (1995), has focused on the 
relation between the historical communities that created the gospels and 
the “symbolic universes” that sustained those communities’ social structures 
(see esp. Kee 1995:9-13). A first insight for this kind of analysis arises from 
the sociology of knowledge, according to which “language itself, as well as 
what it communicates, is the product of a sociocultural group that shares a 

5 Exceptions to the latter occur in Acts 20:28 and Jn 1:29, 36. 



world of perceptions, convictions, understandings, and modes of expres¬ 
sion” (Kee 1995:2). For early Christian self-understanding, such “worlds of 
perceptions” turned uniquely on a community’s image of Jesus (227). A sec¬ 
ond insight arises from sociological and anthropological study of millenarian 
sects. In relation to the broader Greco-Roman world and first-century Juda¬ 
ism, according to John Gager, early Christianity may be viewed as such a 
sectarian movement or movements involved in the creation of new “social 
worlds” for new religious communities (1975:9-12; cf. Brown 1979:14-5). All 
of these communities—located socially among the Greco-Roman urban 
populace—shared to some degree a situation of “relative deprivation” in 
relation to the rest of the social order (Gager 1975:94-6,106-8). As a result, 
in their literature they envisioned worlds which reduced status distinctions 
among their members and reversed insider/outsider distinctions from their 
environment (27-35). These worlds both reflected their social reality and 
postulated new ones. In the terms formulated by the anthropologist GlifFord 
Geertz, they provided both models of and models/or the community’s lived 
experience (1973:92-3; cf. Gager 1975:9). 

For Luke and John, important differences in language suggest that their 
communities faced different tensions and asked different questions. The 
highly charged polemics of the Fourth Gospel against “the Jews” and “the 
world,” as well as its several references to expulsion as a consequence of 
confessing Ghrist (9:22; 12:42; 16:2), suggest separation from and persecu¬ 
tion by Jewish synagogues as a dominant element of its community setting 
(Rensberger 1988:25-6; cf Gulpepper 1983:211-2; Brown 1979:22-4,110-20; 
Perkins 1990:945-6). In the text of John’s Gospel, this dynamic reveals itself 
through a persistent demand for full confession and rejection of all alter¬ 
nate beliefs, as well as restrictive baptism and Eucharist for creating and 
reinforcing clear social boundaries (Rensberger 1988:59-61, 64-86). The 
Fourth Gospel offers a model of a community “deeply embattled and op¬ 
pressed” by outside forces (Segovia i99ia:307). Similarly, Luke’s polemic 
against “the Jews” and portrayals of persecution suggest a conflict. Yet Philip 
Esler argues that this involved psychological discomfort rather than violent 
confrontation (1987:46-51). As a community composed primarily of Jews 
and Gentile “god-fearers” converted to Ghristianity, the movement’s rejec¬ 
tion by the Jews and subsequent separation from the synagogue raised ques¬ 
tions about its legitimacy (42-5, 54-7). In the face of such questions, Luke 
sets out to prove that Ghristianity is the legitimate heir of “Jewish ancestral 
roots” through construction of a symbolic universe that builds the Jewish 

Locklin: To Teach As the Evangelists Did? 


past into the present and future of the community (16-9). Whereas John’s 
“introversionist” sect turns inward, Luke’s “conversionist” sect emphasizes 
continuity and expansion (59-65; cf. Rensberger 1988:27), employing table 
fellowship to unite Jews and Gentiles, rich and poor, across the divisions 
that threaten the community (Esler 1987:105-9). Whether facing a literal 
expulsion from synagogues or the more subtle questions posed by Jewish 
rejection of Jesus, both Luke and John thus create models of the realities that 
they confront in order to respond to them. 

These responses, however, do not rest content with such appropriations 
and comforting re-interpretations of the communities’ historical contexts. 
Both evangelists also draw upon the diverse Jewish and Hellenistic resources 
at their disposal to present bold new visions for participation in the new 
people of God (Kee 1995:44-59). Kee traces Luke’s “model/or” reality in two 
phases. First, in the Gospel, Luke presents Jesus as both “founded in the tra¬ 
ditions and institutions of Israel” and as the one who uniquely extends the 
claims of that tradition and its covenant beyond its “traditional” bound¬ 
aries to the socially outcast (1995:187-90). In Acts this movement beyond 
boundaries transforms into a geographic expansion of the Ghristian com¬ 
munity, first in Jerusalem (1:1-11:18) and then through initial (11:19-14:28) 
and subsequent (16:1-20:35) missions into climactic confrontations not 
only with its own Jewish and Gentile identity (ch. 15) but also with both Jew¬ 
ish and Gentile law (20:36-28:31; Kee 1995:192-207; 1990:42-69; cf. 
Gonzelmann i987:xlv-xlviii). Whereas in Acts the constitution of God’s new 
covenant community proceeds geographically, Kee traces in John’s Gospel a 
more subtle and progressive revelation of God’s logos in Jesus, comprising 
both Jesus’ own union with God and the full participation in life offered to 
the members of his community (1995:161-70; cf. Minear 1993:142-56). “To 
reject Jesus and his word is to reject God and his purpose, and thereby to 
forego participation in eternal life (12:44-50). The theme that Jesus alone 
provides access to God is given its basic formulation in John 14:6: T am 
the way, the truth, and the life’” (Kee 1995:169). Members are called into 
intimate “mystical” communion and unity with this way, truth, and life— 
indeed, with the foundation of created reality itself. Like Luke, John offers 
an invitation into this new people of God as a model/or his community’s 
lived experience. Yet for both evangelists the effectiveness of these offers in 
their communities naturally depend largely upon the effectiveness with 
which they are communicated. We turn now to some strategies employed 
in pursuit of this goal. 



Narrative Criticism: The “How” of Education 

Thus far we have occupied ourselves with the gospels in their function as 
documents addressed to social needs. In the face of conflict or rejection, the 
“symbolic universes” presented therein serve to confirm and influence the 
shared perceptions and understandings of the communities to which they 
were written. But the evangelists accomplished these goals by setting their 
work in narrative form. Recent discussion around both John and Luke-Acts 
has turned on the genre of the works in comparison to other Greco-Roman 
narrative forms, such as ancient biography, Greek novel, or historiography.^ 
While John may more closely resemble the biography and Luke-Acts (par¬ 
ticularly Acts) the novel, both genres served a similar didactic function in 
the ancient world as “religious propaganda” for their authors’ views (Kee 
i995:5i> 85; cf. Aune 1987:59-63; Tolbert 1989:60-1). John and Acts, moreover, 
stand out in this regard. In comparison to the more episodic form of the 
synoptic gospels, both John and Acts reveal a tighter structure and greater 
evidence of a deliberate order of presentation: a “plot” in which each event 
relates to the others and moves the story towards its conclusion (Culpepper 
1983:86-9; Tannehill 1990:5-7 ).7 In this regard they resemble ancient and 
contemporary works of fiction. Narrative criticism on these works reveals 
how the “implied authors” or narrators use the plot and literary devices such 
as irony to draw the “implied audience” into the world created by the narra¬ 
tive (Culpepper 1983:4-5). 

In the discussion of “social worlds” above, certain elements of plot have 
already come to light, notably the expansion of the people of God beyond 
“traditionalist” social or geographical bounds in Luke-Acts and the progres¬ 
sive revelation of the divine logos in John. In the case of Luke-Acts, a deeper 
ground of unity for the two volumes lies in the universal “purpose” or “plan 
of God” which drives Jesus’ mission in his lifetime and is carried forward by 
the community that follows him (see Lk 2:30-32; 3:6; 24:47-49; Acts 1:8; 

6 For recent contributions to the conversation concerning the genre of the 
gospels (including Luke-Acts as a single unit), see Aune (1987:46-76); Tolbert 
(1989:35-79); Balch (1990); Powell (1991:9-13); Segovia (19916:47-9); Burridge 
(1992); and Cancik (1997). 

7 It seems reasonable to suppose that Luke may have had less dependence on 
prior traditions (such as Mark and Q) in his construction of Acts, which gave 
him greater freedom to shape the narrative. On the possible relationship be¬ 
tween journeys in the plot of John and the synoptics, see Segovia (1992:535-41). 

Locklin: To Teach As the Evangelists Did? 


26:22-23; Powell 1991:38-42; Ray 1996:28-31; Tannehill 1990:7). The phrase 
“it is necessary” occurs frequently to underscore this purpose. In addition, 
while the prophecies of scripture and of diverse characters within the narra¬ 
tive set the stage for subsequent developments (Ray 1996:69-72), the initial 
acceptance and subsequent rejection of God’s plan by the Jews also provide 
dramatic conflict and portray a “typical” Jewish response for the implied 
audience (104-6). These motifs combine in an engaging account that an¬ 
swers the uncomfortable realities of a crucified Messiah and unbelieving 
Jews in terms of the one purpose of God for the whole world (Ray 1996:128- 
9). In the case of John, the gospel narrative also possesses a plot with a 
definite purpose: to reveal the Father (1:18) and, through this revelation, to 
remove the sin of the world (3:28; Culpepper 1983:87-9). This goal unfolds as 
the narrative proceeds toward the “hour”—both future and present—when 
Jesus is “glorified” (12:23; i3:i;i7:i; cf. 1:14; 2:4; 4:23; 5:28) by being “lifted up” 
or “exalted” in his passion (3:14; 8:28; 12:32; cf. O’Day 1986:111-2). From its 
beginning in signs and testimony (e.g., 5:36), increasing levels of conflict 
with “the Jews” (ch. 1-8), and an “interpretive interlude” (ch. 9-10), Jesus’ 
public ministry culminates in the resurrection of Lazarus from the dead 
(11:1-44) ^nd the events leading up to the crucifixion (11:45-12:50).^ The 
narrative “slows down” noticeably as it approaches this final “glorification” 
of the Son. Jesus prepares his disciples for this event (ch. 13-17) and then 
finally completes his work and returns in fact if not in appearance to the 
Father from whom he had come (ch. 18-21).^ Like Jesus himself, the narra¬ 
tive of the gospel draws the implied reader into this moment of revelation, 
dividing all people—past, present, and future—into those who “have the light 
of life” through belief in Jesus and those “who walk in darkness” through 
their corresponding unbelief (8:12; see Culpepper 1983:234). 

Both John’s dramatic revelation of the Son and Luke’s motif of proph¬ 
ecy and fulfillment also employ irony to achieve their rhetorical goals. John, 
by announcing the divine identity and incarnation of the logos in the pro¬ 
logue, creates a stable “double context” comprising “higher” and “lower” 
understandings (Fredriksen 1988:20-3; Culpepper 1983:166-8; Brodie 

8 This account of the plot of the gospel follows Culpepper (1983:89-97) and 
accords closely with Fredriksen (1988:23-4). For alternatives in comparison with 
Greco-Roman biography and the life of the individual believer, see Segovia 
(19916:535-41) and Brodie (1993:31-50). 

9 But see 20:24-29. 



i993’i7-9)-^° Throughout the narrative, characters such as “the Jews,” 
Nicodemus, and even the disciples persistently misunderstand Jesus’ words 
and actions because they cannot ascend to this higher level. In addition to 
moving the plot forward, these ironic misperceptions invite the implied 
reader—who presumably already shares many values with the implied au¬ 
thor and who, in any case, has been prepared by the prologue—to identify 
with the view of the implied author against the victim of the irony (Culpepper 
1983:177-80,199-202). Whereas for John this irony turns on the identity of 
Jesus, for Luke it turns on the purpose of God that frames the entire narra¬ 
tive. Two events are central for the implied author and his audience in Luke- 
Acts: first, the rejection of the Messiah by the Jews in his trial and crucifixion 
(see esp. Lk 23:33-43) and, second, the subsequent rejection of his message 
by the Jewish people and its acceptance by the Gentiles (see esp. Acts 28:25- 
28; Ray 1996:8-9). The “God of surprises” (Tannehill 1990:3) reverses these 
apparent failures: crucifixion becomes the pre-eminent sign of Jesus’ Mes¬ 
sianic identity (see 24:44) and persecution by the Jews becomes the occa¬ 
sion for the spread of the movement beyond Israel (see 8:1 ff.; 11:19 ff-J 
1996:132-3). To the extent that both evangelists can use such irony to pro¬ 
mote identification with the plot and with the pre-eminent figures and 
events that move that plot forward, they also create and sustain effective 
bonds between implied author, implied audience, and the communities of 
meaning in which both find their primary social identity (O’Day 1986:4-5, 
29-31; Culpepper 1983:161-5; Ray 1996:40-1). 

I began this study by raising the question of the missionary function of 
Christian education as instituted and practiced within the Roman Catholic 
Church. Although we have yet to approach the question of mission, we may 
now be in a place to see how these two NT authors function as educators. 
Neither one of them presents an explicit curriculum or an institutional vi¬ 
sion. Rather, from sociocultural analysis we can see that each presents a sym¬ 
bolic universe or “world” which both reflects the community’s historical situ¬ 
ation and presents a bold vision to sustain it in that context. Narrative criti¬ 
cism further reveals how the implied author of the text draws the implied 
reader into his “system of influence” through the plot of the story and through 
such literary devices as irony (Tannehill 1990:4). In reading these narratives 

10 By “stable” irony I mean irony that does not turn in on itself; it is intended 
to be successfully interpreted and understood by the reader. See O’Day (1986:22- 
6) and Culpepper (1996:201-5). 

Locklin: To Teach As the Evangelists Did? 


we witness a decisive confirmation of and intervention in a larger process 
of socialization. The evangelists write for a social purpose. Specifically, they 
write to draw their readers into a distinctive way of perceiving and under¬ 
standing the world, and they do this through the texts that they compose. 
They write to educate. 

Some readers may see the step from socialization to education as a rather 
long one. At least one educational philosophy drawn from the Hellenistic 
context, however, suggests quite the opposite. According to Werner Jaeger 
(1961), for example, classical Greekpaideia incorporated both socializa¬ 
tion and literature as integral components of its educational vision. He 

The formative mold of early Greek paideia was Homer, and as time 
went on that role was extended to Greek poetry at large. In the end, the 
word paideia meant Greek literature as a whole. The Greeks had no 
other word for it. For them it was most natural to regard that which 
we nowadays call literature from the viewpoint of the social function it 
had fulfilled throughout their history (1961:91; cf Young 1996:229). 

To be educated in paideia was to be molded by Greek literature, culture, and 
the world views that this language and culture brought with it. Its influence, 
moreover, extended beyond Greece to the whole Greco-Roman world— 
including, of course, Hellenistic Judaism. As a concept, ''paideia' became a 
significant element both of the Septuagint and of Philo’s speculative theol¬ 
ogy (Bertram 1967:608-16; cf. Jaeger 1961:6-7, 24; Crenshaw 1998:11-5). As 
an educational practice, it gave a new shape to Jewish institutions of teach¬ 
ing and learning. The ideal of “closing the distance” between events in the 
sacred text and the contemporary experience of the religious community 
already had roots deep in the Jewish scriptures (see, e.g., Levenson 1985:36- 
45; Brueggemann 1982:14-39,102-17; Crenshaw 1998:124-5). The influence 
of paideia offered a distinctive shape to this tradition from the second cen¬ 
tury BCE to the first century CE, when many Hebrew schools adopted struc¬ 
tures parallel to the Greek system while simultaneously substituting Torah 
for Homer as their primary formative text (Townsend 1992:315-6; Young 

What emerges from this brief treatment is suggestive rather than conclu¬ 
sive. It would be rash to identify the evangelists’ efforts with paideia in a nar¬ 
row sense, and the precise influence of this educational philosophy upon them 



or upon their communities will likely remain obscure. “ We can, however, safely 
conclude from the widespread influence of paideia in the Greco-Roman world 
that neither the connection between education and socialization nor the 
employment of literature for this purpose would have been entirely foreign to 
the gospel writers.In fact, it is far more likely that the imposition of any hard 
and fast distinctions between these three dimensions of social life would have 
been foreign: in writing to produce and sustain viable communities, they 
naturally engaged in rhetoric, in socialization, and thus also in education. 
Moreover, if John and Luke themselves reflect the vision with which they en¬ 
dowed their narratives, they must have perceived this educational task in fun¬ 
damental continuity with the Jewish scriptures and with the very stories they 
set out to narrate. In this sense, at least, the evangelists provide a model and a 
vision of what it means to engage in Christian education. Rather, they present 
models and visions—plural—for, despite their similarity, the symbolic worlds 
of each work differ significantly from one another. We now turn to the con¬ 
crete details of these worlds. 


The above discussion has already drawn attention in broad detail to many 
characteristics of the “social and literary worlds”^^ constructed by Luke and 

11 It should be noted that Jaeger (1961:12-26) suggests that even the letter of 
Clement to the Corinthians at the end of the first century CE bears the distinct 
mark of the paideia educational philosophy. 

12 Crenshaw, in his recent study of ancient Israelite education and Near East¬ 
ern parallels, concurs with this connection between socialization and education: 
“In the ancient Near East education preceded literacy and arose as an effort to 
create an orderly society characterized by a kind of utilitarian morality” (1998:279; 
cf. 1-4). It is worth noting that it was only during the Hellenistic period consid¬ 
ered here that this ideal expanded to include relatively widespread literacy (by 
the standards of antiquity) and the central value given to formative texts 
(Crenshaw 1998:43-9; but cf 221-37). 

13 I use this single phrase for convenience to indicate the world of the text as 
it participates in the broader construction of the community’s social world. At 
the same time, it must be recognized that these two realities—the social world of 
the community and the symbolic world of the text—necessarily remain distinct 
and in some tension with one another. 

Locklin: To Teach As the Evangelists Did? 


John. Because space does not permit a survey of both texts in their entirety, in 
order further to clarify the particular dimensions of these worlds I turn to 
two segments of the texts in their final forms: the Farewell Discourse of John 
and the period of the Jerusalem community portrayed in the first five chap¬ 
ters of Acts. The former relates Jesus’ washing of the disciples’ feet at the Last 
Supper and the departure of Judas (13:1-30), two major sets of discourses 
(13:31-16:33), and Jesus’ final prayer on behalf of his disciples (ch. 17). The 
latter narrates three major chains of events, including the ascension of Jesus 
and re-constitution of the twelve apostles (1:1-26), the Pentecost event and 
Peter’s sermon (2:1-47), and a series of speeches, summaries, and confron¬ 
tations beginning with the healing of a lame man and concluding with Peter 
and John before the Sanhedrin for a second time (3:1-5:42). I choose these 
texts for four reasons. First, both treat similar themes, including Jesus’ de¬ 
parture, the sending of the Holy Spirit in his absence, and the community’s 
conflict with “the world.” Second, the Johannine Jesus ostensibly addresses 
the disciples to prepare them for the time immediately after his departure, 
which is precisely the period figured in the first chapters of Acts. Third, if we 
regard Luke-Acts as a single narrative and follow some commentators in 
dividing John into two major movements (1-12 and 13-17; see Brodie 
1993:21-3, 33; Bultmann 1971:452-61), we may see both in analogous posi¬ 
tions in their respective narratives—between the final announcement of 
God’s ultimate purpose in Jesus (Jn 12:23,32; Lk 24:47; Acts 1:8) and the be¬ 
ginning of the fulfillment of that purpose (Jn 18:1 If.; Acts 6:1 ff.; see Barrett 
1994:57-8; Fredriksen 1988:23; Segovia I99ia:308-i9). Finally,both passages 
present large pieces of material by reliable voices within the narrative— 
notably Jesus’ discourses in John and the various speeches and summaries 
in Acts—that may provide fairly direct access to the implied author’s per¬ 
spective and thus to the social and literary world that he constructs 
(Culpepper 1983:34-43; Tannehill 1990:28,433-44)* 

The inquiry will proceed on three levels that appear to reflect the authors’ 
genuine aims as well as those of an “educational mission” in the contempo¬ 
rary church: first, the disciples’ relation to Jesus; second, the relation of these 
disciples’ witness to the Holy Spirit; and third, the community’s relation to 
the world. Thus, beginning with Jesus and moving through his Spirit and his 
community of disciples into the world, we shall be able to isolate significant 
images and tendencies which will then inform our subsequent constructive 



Jesus and the Disciples 

Education requires a teacher, and within the narrative of the gospels this 
role is most frequently occupied by Jesus. But who is this teacher? John an¬ 
swers this question at the very start of his gospel, identifying Jesus as the 
unique, incarnate logos of God (1:1-18). Following his lead, we may begin 
our comparison with two passages that echo the prologue in form and con¬ 
tent: the introduction to the foot washing episode (Jn 13:1-5) and Jesus’ in¬ 
troduction to his final prayer (17:1-5; Brodie 1993:446-8,508-10). Each be¬ 
gins with a pronouncement that the “hour” has come for Jesus to “depart 
from this world and go to the Father” (13:1) and for the Son to “glorify” the 
Father in the Father’s glorification of the Son (17:1). Following this announce¬ 
ment of his divine destination, the text of i3:ib-5 describes his action in 
successively more concrete and humble forms: loving “his own ... to the 
end” (13:1b) and “knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, 
and that he had come from God and was going to God” (13:3) he takes up 
water and a towel to wash their feet (13:4-5). The juxtaposition of divine 
with mundane here seems almost dizzying, a “stereoscopic” summation of 
the incarnation (Gulpepper 1983:33-4). The final prayer is similarly stereo¬ 
scopic, although it ascends from earth to heaven: the Son has been “given” all 
authority, including the power to give eternal life to those “given” to him 
(17:2), he has “glorified” the Father on earth by completing the work that he 
has been “given” (17:4; cf. 4:34), and now petitions to be glorified with the 
glory that he had in the Father’s presence “before the world existed” (17:5; cf. 
1:1,14). Together, these passages summarize major themes of the Son’s iden¬ 
tity as well as the revelation that he bears: “This is eternal life, that they may 
know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (17:3; cf. 
14:6-7). The Son has been sent by the Father who gives him authority, work, 
and a community of “his own,” will return to the Father, and uniquely reveals 
the Father because they were together at the beginning and are ultimately 
one (cf. 14:10-11; 10:30; 1:1; Culpepper 1983:108-9; Cullmann 1975:14-5). 

In contrast to John’s “uniquely high christology” (Brown 1979:145), Luke 
portrays Christ in quite different terms: “The emphasis on Jesus as Messiah 
falls more on the functional factor of what he does in fulfillment of God’s 
purpose than on who he is in relation to God ...” (Kee 1990:12). In Acts 2:33- 
36, as in many of his speeches in Acts, Peter presents one version of the 
“kerygma” concerning Jesus to the crowd that gathers in response to the 
Pentecost event (Dillon 1990:732-4). He offers a kind of proof in three parts. 

Locklin: To Teach As the Evangelists Did? 


First (2:22-24), he sets out distinctive signs of Jesus’ role in God’s plan of 
salvation, including the “deeds of power, wonders, and signs that God did 
through him” while living (v. 22), his crucifixion by the Gentiles “according 
to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God” (v. 23) and his resurrection 
by God. Second (2:25-31), he presents an argument from scripture (prima¬ 
rily Ps 16) that these events—particularly the resurrection—confirm proph¬ 
ecies by David. Finally (2:32-35), he appeals to the fact of the resurrection, to 
which “all of us [apostles] are witnesses” (v. 32), and to Jesus’ exaltation “at 
the right hand of God” (v. 33) as further fulfillments of David’s prophecy (w. 
33-34)- He concludes his proof: “Therefore let the entire house of Israel 
know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this 
Jesus whom you crucified” (2:36). Peter thus simultaneously places responsi¬ 
bility for Jesus’ death upon the shoulders of his Jewish audience and attributes 
the entire series of events to the agency of God (Tannehill 1990:36-7). In¬ 
deed, God remains the major actor throughout the whole speech, not be¬ 
cause of Jesus’ unity with God, but rather because Jesus’ signs, crucifixion, 
resurrection, and ascension all occur through the power of God. He is more 
than “merely” the Jewish Messiah, but this follows from his special role in 
God’s plan of salvation, which extends beyond “mere” restoration of Israel 
(Fredriksen 1988:27-36; Powell 1989:29-63,79). 

Peter can speak with such authority because the one whom God has made 
“both Lord and Messiah” has already shown him “many convincing proofs” 
and taught him about “the kingdom of God” (1:3) before his ascension. We 
may infer elements of this teaching both from Peter’s speech and from Jesus’ 
teaching of the disciples at the conclusion of the gospel (Lk 24:26-27, 44- 
46), in which he “opened” the disciples’ minds to the scriptures and revealed 
how they confirmed his own status as Messiah in God’s plan (Tannehill 
1990:13-4). As presented in Acts, this teaching primarily concerns the events 
that will bring this plan to fruition. Jesus assures the disciples that they will 
soon receive the “promise of the Father” (Acts 1:4) through their baptism in 
the Holy Spirit (1:5). Possibly still misunderstanding the scope of God’s plan 
of salvation, they inquire about the restoration of Israel (1:6). Jesus rebukes 
them (1:7) and concludes his teaching with an explicit announcement of 
the plan in its entirety: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has 
come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and 
Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (1:8). From this point forward, when 
education must take place, the Holy Spirit will do the teaching (e.g. 10:44 ff.; 

8 o 


16:6-8; cf. Kee 1990:36-41). But the essential shape of this instruction has 
already been stated. 

In several places throughout the Farewell Discourse of John’s Gospel 
the disciples ask questions or make statements that, like the disciples’ ques¬ 
tion in Acts, reveal their misunderstanding of Jesus and his revelation (Jn 
13:6-10; 13:36; 14:5; 14:8-9; 14:22). The final such episode occurs in 16:25-33 
and again begins with an announcement of the “hour” in which Jesus “will 
no longer speak to you in figures, but will tell you plainly of my Father” (v. 
25). On the one hand, the broad context of the gospel reveals in many places 
that this pronouncement has come true for members of the community 
(cf. 2:22; 12:16; 13:7; 20:9; Culpepper 1983:28,36-41). On the other hand, in 
its immediate context it becomes both a source for further misunderstand¬ 
ing and a clue to the way Johannine language has functioned throughout 
the narrative (O’Day 1986:108-9). Jesus commends the disciples for their 
belief and love, for which they will receive the love of the Father (v. 27) and 
repeats the descent (“I came from the Father ... into the world”) and as¬ 
cent (“I am leaving the world ... to the Father”) language with which the 
implied reader has by now grown familiar (v. 28). The disciples ironically 
mistake his statement as referring to their present state, making succes¬ 
sively stronger statements about the plainness of his speech (v. 29), their 
knowledge, and their belief (v. 30; Barrett 1978:496-7; Brodie 1993:502-3). 
Again as in Acts, Jesus responds to this misunderstanding with a rebuke 
(w. 31-32). Whereas for Luke a description of the plan of God followed the 
rebuke, for John it gives way to a further revelation of Jesus’ identity as 
being in the presence of the Father (v.32) and as the one who has already 
“conquered the world” (v. 33). In a sense, these statements ironically 
confirm the disciples’ own misapprehension, for Jesus moves the locus of 
revelation from the future into the present of the disciples’ (and implied 
reader’s) experience of his identity as Son (O’Day 1986:70-1). 

Despite some similarities in structure, the evangelists’ different portray¬ 
als of Jesus condition their vision of his relation to his disciples. Luke’s 
Jesus announces God’s plan of salvation as the fulfillment of the Jewish 
scriptures, his own role as Messiah, and his disciples’ function as witnesses. 
For John it is both simpler and more complex, for what Jesus, the incar¬ 
nate logos, announces is himself. For both evangelists, however, Jesus com¬ 
municates through more than merely his announcements. After washing 
the disciples’ feet, Jesus states: 

Locklin: To Teach As the Evangelists Did? 

8 i 

Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and 
Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and 
Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s 
feet. For I have set you an example [hypodeigma], that you also 
should do as I have done to you (Jn I3:i2b-i5). 

As part of the revelation imparted to the disciples, Jesus has given them a 
“pattern” (hypodeigma) of a particular ritual act, a pattern for their service, 
and by extension the broad pattern of his testimony and works: “If you know 
these things, you are blessed if you do them” (13:17; cf. Bultmann 1971:475-6). 
In a similar vein in Acts, Peter, standing before the Sanhedrin for the second 
time (Acts 5:29-32; cf. Lk 22:66-71), announces his witness and that of the 
Holy Spirit (v.32) to Jesus as “Leader [archegos] and Savior” (5:31). As “pro¬ 
totype” {archegos) of the disciples (Kee 1990:24-7,90), Jesus provides a kind 
of pattern for the signs and wonders they do in his name, for their preach¬ 
ing, and for their suffering under persecution throughout the book of Acts 
(Tannehill 1990:29,51-5,69-72; Fredriksen 1988:29-31). 

On this point the two evangelists seem to concur: in addition to his ex¬ 
plicit teaching, Jesus presents himself as a concrete pattern or prototype for 
all who would follow in his name. This may suggest immediate possibilities 
and images for the church’s contemporary mission, but it also presents its 
own set of difficulties. Clearly Jesus’ own teaching example as portrayed in 
John and Acts cannot be irrelevant to the disciples’ (and evangelists’) own 
efforts in this regard. At the same time, despite their differences, both Luke 
and John portray Jesus as occupying a unique place in God’s plan and a 
unique relationship to Godself. Hence it seems inappropriate, at first glance, 
to assume that every aspect of Jesus’ relation to the disciples would carry 
over directly into their relations with one another and with the world (see 
esp. Kostenberger 1998:194-8,212-7). Therefore, prior to making our appro¬ 
priation, we must fill out the portrait with a treatment of the disciples’ dis¬ 
tinctive task and of the power given to them for its fulfillment. 

The Holy Spirit and Witness 

All students have teachers, but only the community of Jesus’ disciples is prom¬ 
ised one that will remain with them throughout their lives. The above dis¬ 
cussion has already alluded to some of the roles that the Holy Spirit takes in 
Acts following Jesus’ departure. The Spirit is arguably the main character of 



the story from that point forward. In Luke’s view of history, this Spirit has 
been active from the beginning, inspiring the prophecies of the Jewish scrip¬ 
tures (i:i6; 4:25) and empowering Jesus’ own earthly ministry.^"^ At the same 
time, the narrative of Acts depicts Pentecost as a moment in which God gives 
the Spirit to the apostles in a new and definitive way (2:1-21). This event 
fulfills the first part of Jesus’ commission in 1:8 (“the Holy Spirit”) and fore¬ 
shadows the rest in its image of the apostles speaking (“witness”) to people 
from every nation (“to the ends of the earth”; Barrett 1994:108,115). In his 
speech following the event Peter confirms this universal image through a 
citation of Joel to the effect that God will pour out the Holy Spirit on “all 
flesh” (v. 17), that those who receive it “shall prophesy” (v. 18), and that “every¬ 
one who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (v. 21).At the conclu¬ 
sion of his speech (2:37-38), he enacts this prophecy by calling upon his 
audience to repent, to be baptized “in the name of Jesus Ghrist” (who is both 
“Lord and Messiah” in 2:36), and to receive “the gift of the Holy Spirit” (w. 
38-39). Although the Spirit is associated with both the name of Jesus and 
baptism, it is not confined to them; rather, as subsequent events reveal, the 
Spirit remains a gift freely given by God (Kee 1990:32; Tannehill 1990:30-1; 
cf. Acts 8:20; 10:45; 11:17). The Spirit’s primary function, as indicated by the 
image of Pentecost and the quotation of Joel, involves empowering witness 
through signs (2:43) and words (4:8; cf. 5:32; Powell 1991:50-6). 

Although John—like Luke—presents an “oblique” reference to the Spirit’s 
baptism of Jesus and empowerment of his ministry (Jn 1:33; 3:34; Brown 
1979:88; Barrett 1996:170), his emphasis falls more strongly on the Spirit’s 
role as Jesus’ successor in the community. Thus, when the “Spirit of truth” 
occurs for the first time in the Farewell Discourse (14:16-26), Jesus identifies 
this Spirit with “another Advocate” that will “abide” with, in, and/or among 
{en hymin) the disciples (14:16-17), creating a parallel with Jesus as the first 
such “Advocate.” Jesus’ following words—“I will not leave you orphaned; I 
am coming to you” (v. 18)—further reinforce this parallel. Although Jesus will 
shortly depart and no longer be seen by the world (w. 19,22), he and his Fa- 

14 E.g., Lk 1:35; 3:22; Acts 10:37; see further references in Kee (1990:28-30) and 
Powell (1989:108-11). 

15 Although Ray (1996:145-6) stresses the Joel quotation as a proclamation of 
the messianic time, it seems to me that this strengthens rather than diminishes 
the role of the Holy Spirit according to Luke’s particular understanding of that 
messianic time. 

Locklin: To Teach As the Evangelists Did? 


ther will love (v. 21), reveal himself (v. 21)and make their home (v. 23) with 
those who keep Jesus’ commandments (v. 21,23-24) and who love him (v. 21). 
After Jesus’ departure, the Holy Spirit sent “in my name” will continue to 
teach his disciples “everything” and “remind” them of his teaching (v. 26). A 
second group of references (16:7-15) further extend the Advocate’s role. Not 
only will Jesus not leave the disciples orphaned (14:18), it is to their advan¬ 
tage that he depart (16:7). In his absence, the Advocate will “prove the world 
wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment” (v. 8; cf. w. 9-11).^ot 
only will the Spirit confirm Jesus’ teaching (14:26), but the Spirit will teach 
them more than Jesus has taught (16:12)—indeed the Advocate will “guide 
you into all the truth” by speaking what has been heard (v. 13), glorifying the 
Son (v. 14), and declaring what the Father has given to the Son (v. 15). As the 
“living presence” of Jesus in the community and in each individual member 
of that community, the Spirit extends Jesus’ own mission—including the 
revelation of himself and the Father in him—beyond the bounds of his 
earthly ministry (Brown 1979:88). 

This continuation of Jesus’ revelation through the community includes 
“greater works” (see 14:11-12), as well as testimony in the pattern of both Jesus 
and the Spirit (15:26-27). The Advocate, the Spirit of truth sent by the Son (v. 
26; cf. 14:16-17), again parallels the Son by coming from the Father and tes¬ 
tifying on Jesus’ behalf (v. 26; cf. 8:42; 13:3; 16:27; 17-8). In v. 27 Jesus extends 
this pattern to the community of believers (Brodie 1993:489-90): “You also 
are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning [arche ].” 
Here arche may refer to the disciples’ association either with Jesus’ earthly 
ministry (cf. 16:4) and/or with his divine origin (cf. 1:1; see Barrett 1978:483). 
This mission of the disciples comes into clearer focus in Jesus’ final prayer 
(17:17-21). Just as the Father sent Jesus into the world, so Jesus sends his dis¬ 
ciples into the world (v. 18); just as Jesus sanctifies himself (v. 19), so he peti- 

16 1 have left the pronoun “himself’ singular in reference to either Jesus or the 
Father in preference to the plural “themselves,” since this ambiguity seems to 
accord well with Jesus’ own relation to the Father (cf w. 9,20,24, and the discus¬ 
sion above). 

17 Commentators tend to associate the Spirit’s exposure or conviction of the 
world either with action on the conscience of the individual believer or action 
through the presence of the community in the world. See Brodie (1993:493-4, 
496-9); Bultmann (1971:562-3); Barrett (1978:486-8); and Perkins (1990:977). Ei¬ 
ther way, it seems to refer to an activity immanent in the life of the community 
and its members. 



tions that the disciples also be sanctified in the truth which is the Father’s 
logos, Jesus himself (v. 17; Barrett 1978:510); just as Jesus is in the Father and 
the Father in Jesus, so also the disciples and those who believe through the 
disciples’ logos (v. 20) are in the Father and in Jesus (v. 21). Thus the 
community’s origin, sanctification, and unity in relation to Jesus closely 
mirror and parallel those of Jesus in relation to the Father.^^ They also reflect 
the same fundamental goal: . that the world may believe that you [the Fa¬ 
ther] have sent me [the Son]” (v. 21; Barrett 1978:510-1; Segovia i99ia:2io-i). 
The concrete form of testifying to Jesus and fulfilling his mission remains 
somewhat ambiguousd^ What does stand out clearly is that the revelation of 
Jesus’ identity occurs in and through the community formed, sanctified, and 
sent in his name (Meeks 1972:56-7). 

Whereas John remains content to leave the commissioning of the dis¬ 
ciples largely implicit in his narrative, so-called “commission scenes” oc¬ 
cur frequently in Luke’s account, including the programmatic introduc¬ 
tion to Acts as a whole (Acts 1:8). The account of the replacement of Judas 
(1:21-25) highlights the necessity of finding such a replacement (v. 21) as 
well as this replacement’s divinely ordained function (v. 22): “One of these 
must become a witness with us to his resurrection,” the very event which— 
along with his crucifixion—proves Jesus’ identity as Messiah (cf. Lk 24:46; 
Acts 2:34-36; 3:18). While John leaves the reference to those with Jesus 
“from the beginning” deliberately ambiguous, Luke makes it explicit in 
the case of Matthias as “beginning from the baptism of John until the day 
when he was taken up from us” (Acts 1:22), thus emphasizing their partici¬ 
pation in Jesus’ earthly activity in the service of God’s plan (Tannehill 
1990:23-4). Peter draws attention to the fulfillment of this plan in his 
speech at Solomon’s Portico following his healing of the lame man (3:12- 
26). After upbraiding the Jewish onlookers for their wonder at this mi¬ 
raculous event (w. 12-13), Peter convicts them of handing over God’s “ser¬ 
vant Jesus,” rejecting the “Holy and Righteous One,” and killing “the Au¬ 
thor of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses” (w. 
13-16). Along with this verbal witness to the resurrection, this healing by 

18 But see Kostenberger (1998:212-9) and the discussion above on limits to 
this parallel. 

19 It seems to include, however, at least some missionary activity among the 
Samaritans and the Gentiles, if not the Jews. See Rensberger (1988:144); Cullmann 
(1975:16, 49); and Brown (1979:67-8). 

Locklin: To Teach As the Evangelists Did? 


Jesus’ “name itself’ also testifies to God. In a pattern familiar from the pre¬ 
vious discussion, Peter first indicts the Jews but then recognizes their ig¬ 
norance (v. 17), identifying God’s fulfillment of divine prophecies (v. 18; cf. 
22-26) as the true cause of the passion events. The expected response to 
this fulfillment is repentance (v. 19) in obedience to the one so rejected 
and raised (w. 22-23), so that “times of refreshing” (v. 20) and the “univer¬ 
sal restoration that God announced long ago through his holy prophets” 
(v. 21) can come with Jesus’ return. In the subsequent narrative this mis¬ 
sion occurs concretely through the further “sending” of God’s salvation 
from the Jews to the Gentiles (cf. 10:18; 28:28; Kee 1990:70-1). 

Both evangelists portray witness to Jesus and to God’s work in and 
through him as one primary function of the disciples. Both, moreover, con¬ 
nect this activity to the prior, empowering work of the Holy Spirit. The clear 
structural similarities between the Lukan and Johannine accounts of the 
Spirit’s presence in the witnessing community have been aptly summarized 
by W. F. Lofthouse (1941:336): 

The Spirit is sent by Jesus and by the Father in Jesus’ name; He [sic] is 
given to the disciples as their special possession; He reminds them of 
Jesus; witnesses of Jesus, as they do themselves; guides them, glorifies 
Him. ... The Spirit is linked as closely to the company of disciples in 
the life which awaits them as He is linked to Jesus. 

At the same time, as we saw above in reference to Jesus’ teaching example, 
the very different conceptions of Jesus presented by each evangelist trans¬ 
form their respective accounts of the Spirit and witness. In John, Jesus con¬ 
fers the Spirit directly upon the disciples in a gesture that echoes God’s 
breathing of life into the human in Gen 2:7 (Jn 20:22; cf. 1:3,12-13; Culpepper 
1983:107). In Acts, Jesus rebukes the disciples for inquiring into “the times 
and seasons” of God’s plan (Acts 1:7), and the Spirit comes upon them unex¬ 
pectedly when they are gathered together well after Jesus’ departure (2:1 ff.). 
In John, testimony on behalf of Jesus appears—in the pattern of his own 
identity and work—to involve revelation of his divine identity, a revelation 
realized in the community after his “exaltation” (cf. Jn 7:39). In Acts, testi¬ 
mony on behalf of Jesus—again, in the pattern of his own identity and 
work—involves bearing witness to his call to repentance and fulfillment as 
Messiah of God’s universal plan, a plan that remains in some sense open 
even in the final events of the narrative (Tannehill 1990:353-7). 



In short, John portrays the Father, the Son, the Spirit, and the disciples as 
one tightly knit, relatively closed, and inter-penetrating reality, whereas Luke 
sees them as bound together primarily by virtue of their parallel and mutual 
participation in the one plan of God, as yet incomplete, for the salvation of 
the world. This distinction in the evangelists’ visions of the Holy Spirit and 
witness will add a further element of complexity to our subsequent appro¬ 
priation. We may indeed find that we have to be selective, to identify the 
strengths of each portrait and draw them together into a new one—a deli¬ 
cate task, at best. We may draw some courage for this project from the very 
diversity that we encounter in these two texts, clear evidence that the evan¬ 
gelists themselves served in a synthetic role as they generated their educa¬ 
tional narratives. We shall have to do likewise as we apply their insights to 
our contemporary context. But we should not do so too quickly. First, hav¬ 
ing established the Holy Spirit as the primary link across space and time 
from the disciples’ witness to its source or beginning in Jesus, we must ex¬ 
amine one more important relation that will prove decisive both for Jesus’ 
community and for the modern Christian school. 

The Community and the World 

As envisioned by the American bishops, the Catholic school is a kind of 
community and exists within two other communities. On the one hand, it is 
a community within the church; on the other, it functions in relation to the 
broader culture of its social milieu. For John, these same two contexts clarify 
one another by contrast: to understand the community of the church we 
must first turn to the broad concept “world,” which occurs some 40 times in 
the discourses (Barrett 1978:438). Broadly speaking, in the final half of the 
gospel this “world” is roughly analogous in function to “the Jews” of the first 
half: “the heart and soul of unbelief’ in Jesus as the one sent from God 
(Culpepper 1983:125-30). The hatred of the world for both Jesus and for those 
who follow him comes to the fore in Jn 15:18-25: “If the world hates you, be 
aware that it hated me before it hated you” (v. 18). The world loves “its own,” 
but the disciples have been chosen “out of the world” and therefore incur its 
hatred (v. 19; cf. 13:1). The parallels continue and conflict intensifies in this 
and subsequent passages (Segovia i99ia:2o8-9). As “they” persecuted Jesus, 
so “they” persecute the disciples (v. 20). Moreover, they do these things on 
account of Jesus’ name, because they do not know the one who sent him 
(v.2i; cf. 16:3), ironically fulfilling the logos of “their” law in their persecution 
of the divine logos and of those who have kept his logos (v. 25; v. 20; cf. 17:8, 

Locklin: To Teach As the Evangelists Did? 


14). At the end of Jesus’ final prayer (17:22-26), these parallels and themes 
coalesce with many of those discussed above, and in v. 25 Jesus draws a fun¬ 
damental contrast: “Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I 
know you; and these know that you have sent me” (cf. 14:21). Although sent 
to the world that it might believe that God sent him (cf. w. 21, 23; 3:16-17; 
1:10-11), Jesus makes the Father known only to those chosen out of the world, 
and it is in and among these—“his own”—and not in the world that the 
Father’s love dwells (v. 21; Brown 1979:59-60). 

Although Luke does not draw such a sharp contrast between Jesus’ own 
and “the world,” he no less than John does portray a situation of mounting 
conflict with the Jews—to all of whom, as we have already seen, he assigns 
“corporate guilt” for the killing of Jesus (Fredriksen 1988:33-4). The 
community’s prayer after Peter and John’s first confrontation with the 
Sanhedrin sets out the major terms of this conflict (Acts 4:23-31). Similar to 
John, Luke begins this prayer with an invocation of God as creator of the 
world (v. 24; cf. Jn 1:3; 17:5,24) and cites opposition as fulfillment of God’s 
prophecy in scripture (w. 25-26; cf. Jn 15:25). Like Peter’s statement about 
“universal restoration” (3:21) in his speech before the Jerusalem temple, this 
scripture passage and its fulfillment reach beyond the disciples’ immediate 
context, stating that “the Gentiles” (w. 25,27), the “kings” and “rulers” of the 
earth (v. 26), and “the peoples of Israel” have all “gathered together against 
your holy servant Jesus” (v. 27) and have threatened the apostles (v. 29) in 
accord with divine prophecy. Against this threat, the community petitions 
God to empower them to speak God’s word while God’s “hand” performs 
signs and wonders through them (v. 30), just as God anointed Jesus to do 
whatever God’s “hand” and “plan had predestined to take place” (v. 28). Thus, 
both the reason behind opposition and the power to resist it reside in God, 
and this power receives further confirmation in the physical manifestation 
of the Holy Spirit (v. 31; Barrett 1994:247-8). Unlike John, in which genuine 
recognition of truth appears to reside exclusively within the community,^® 
in the conclusion to the second trial before the Sanhedrin (5:33-40) Luke 
presents a quite different picture. When the Jewish leaders wish to kill Peter 

20 Although John’s “favorite trick” (Culpepper 1983:170) involves putting the 
truth into the mouths of Jesus’ opponents, as for example when Pilate writes 
“the King of the Jews” in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek on Jesus’ cross in Jn 19:19-20, 
it seems to me that little evidence exists that anyone other than those within the 
community recognizes these truths. 



and John (v. 33), Gamaliel, a well-respected Pharisee and “teacher of the law,” 
has the apostles sent out (v. 34) and—after citing the cases of Theudas and 
Judas the Galilean (w. 36-37)—warns his colleagues against rash action (w. 
38-39; Barrett 1994:298-9). The members of the Sanhedrin follow his ad¬ 
vice, at least for the time being (w. 39-40). More importantly for Luke’s por¬ 
trayal of the world, Gamaliel speaks the truth about God’s plan and thus be¬ 
comes a “reliable voice” of the implied author (Tannehill 1990:67; 
Conzelmann 1987:43). Luke, then, does not characterize the world in such 
negative terms that he excludes it entirely as a source of truth about God and 
the plan of salvation. 

Despite such ambivalence about the world in Acts, enduring opposition 
and suffering persecution in the pattern established by Jesus undeniably 
serve as sources of confirmation for the apostles’ participation in this plan 
(e.g. Acts 5:41-42; cf. Kee 1990:73-4). Suffering is not the only sign of such 
participation. In two summaries (2:42-47; 4:32-35), Luke presents his ideal¬ 
ized vision of the Christian community. In the first such summary, this vi¬ 
sion is characterized by four activities: teaching by the apostles, fellowship, 
breaking of bread, and prayer (2:42). The further verses of both passages fill 
out this picture in terms of the apostles’ testimony, signs, and wonders within 
the community (2:42; 4:33), the appropriate response to this testimony in a 
common life and common ownership of possessions (2:44-45; 4:32,34-35), 
temple worship (2:46), and meals enjoyed at home in grateful thanksgiving 
(2:26-47). Luke presents the early Christian community in terms of the 
Greco-Roman friendship tradition as being “of one heart and soul” in their 
common life and participation in God’s plan (4:32; Powell 1991:77-8; cf. 
Tannehill 1990:45-7). This picture receives further definition by means of 
the contrast between Barnabas, who generously lays the proceeds from the 
sale of his property at the apostles’ feet (4:36-38), and Ananias and his wife 
Sapphira, who sell their property, present only part of the proceeds, and pay 
with their lives for lying to the Holy Spirit (5:1-10; Tannehill 1990:78-9). After 
this, “great fear” seizes the whole ekklesia (5:11). Luke thus presents both a 
positive view of the unity of the community and a negative consequence for 
violating this unity. 

John achieves a similar purpose through his well-known image of the vine 
and the branches (Jn 15:1-17). The main theme—the mutual indwelling of 
the Father, Son, and disciples—receives explication through a constellation 
of related terms (Barrett 1978:472-3). Those that “bear fruit” by abiding in 
Jesus the true vine (v. 5) and in his love (v. 9), who have been cleansed by his 

Locklin: To Teach As the Evangelists Did? 


logos (v. 3), and in whom his words (logoi) abide (v. 7)—these become his 
disciples, glorify the Father (v. 8), and indeed “bear more fruit” because the 
Father prunes them (v. 2). Those, on the other hand, who do not bear fruit 
because they do not abide in Jesus (w. 5-6) will be removed from the vine by 
the Father (v. 2) and then burned (v 6). What does bearing fruit entail: mis¬ 
sionary activity (Perkins 1990:976; Kostenberger 1998:184-5), union with 
God (Brodie 1993:480-4), or acts of mutual love and service (Bultmann 
1971:532-3; cf. Culpepper 1983:65-6)? The passage that follows weighs inter¬ 
pretation in favor of the latter of these options. Like Luke, John draws on 
Greco-Roman ideals of friendship (Bultmann 1971:544-6), calling by the 
name “friends” those to whom he has made the Father known (v. 15) and 
who obey his commandments (w. 14,10), particularly his command to love 
one another as he has loved them (v. 12) by laying down his life (v. 13). He 

You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go 
and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you 
whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands 
so that you may love one another (15:16-17). 

John thus draws abiding in Jesus, bearing fruit, and loving one another into 
one single whole (see Kostenberger 1998:189-90). Those who abide in Jesus 
follow his commandment of mutual love and remain within the commu¬ 
nity; those who do not abide in Jesus do not follow this commandment and 
are thus separated from the community, from Jesus the true vine, and, by this 
separation, from life itself (cf. 14:6). 

If we return to the previous occurrence of the love command, immedi¬ 
ately after Judas’ departure “into night” from the last supper scene (13:31-35), 
we see that this single whole—although realized only within the commu¬ 
nity—has implications that extend beyond that community’s boundaries. 
After announcing his glorification (w. 31-32) and imminent departure (v. 
33), Jesus announces the love command for the first time (v. 34). He then 
states its significance: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, 
if you have love for one another” (v. 35). We have already seen above that 
Jesus sends the community into a world that does not know him in order for 
it to believe (17:21,25) and also that the Spirit empowers its members to tes¬ 
tify on Jesus’ behalf (15:26-27). Now the internal life of the community ap¬ 
pears to become a privileged instrument in this mission: by seeing this love. 



the world comes to know the identity of the community as Jesus’ disciples— 
as those who abide in Jesus and keep his logos. In his close juxtaposition of 
testimony and common life (Acts 2:43-44; 4*32-33), Luke both echoes this 
underlying unity and gives it concrete shape in the economic life of the 
community. No less than the Johannine community, the early ekklesia of Acts 
bears witness to God’s plan of salvation not only in but also through its 
worship, breaking bread, and sharing possessions. In both cases, the com¬ 
munity embodies and carries forward the message and the mission with 
which it has been entrusted by Jesus, for which it is empowered by the Spirit, 
and due to which it stands distinct from the world that surrounds and threat¬ 
ens it (cf. Rensberger 1988:147-52; Powell 1989:111-21). 

Equipped with these final insights, we are ready to move forward from 
Luke and John into their distinctive contribution to the “educational mis¬ 
sion” of the contemporary church. What might it look like to appropriate 
their vision to our own—in short, to teach as they might have taught? It is to 
this question that we now turn. 


Since many have undertaken to set down an orderly account of the 
events that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed 
on to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and 
servants of the word, I too decided, after investigating everything 
carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account for you, most 
excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the truth concerning the 
things about which you have been instructed (Lk 1 : 1 - 4 ). 

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which 
are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may 
come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that 
through believing you may have life in his name (Jn 20:30-31). 

In the first major section of this study, a brief survey of sociocultural and 
literary criticism of Luke-Acts and the Fourth Gospel revealed the evange¬ 
lists’ function as educators in a broad sense, inviting their respective audi- 

Locklin: To Teach As the Evangelists Did? 


ences into their social and literary worlds as part of a larger social process in 
their respective communities. They write to educate the members of their 
implied audiences in the terms of this world so that these members might 
“know the truth” and “believe.” In the second major section, comparison of 
selected texts revealed both similarities and differences in these worlds and 
in the ways in which the evangelists envision their communication. Although 
both see this as a single process proceeding from Jesus through the Holy 
Spirit and the community formed in Jesus’ name into the world, their very 
different conceptions of Jesus shape quite distinct conceptions of his com¬ 
munication to his disciples, the Spirit’s relation to the witnessing commu¬ 
nity, and that community’s relation to the world. In order to appropriate the 
insights thus gained for an “educational mission” in the contemporary 
church, we may proceed by analogy on the evangelists as educators in their 
communities.^^ By definition, such an analogy contains both similarity and 
difference. Certainly, it cannot be credibly maintained that the evangelists 
foresaw their literary works as models for modern schools, nor even that 
they imagined such schools within their communities.^^ If, however, they 
are seen as engaged in an “educational mission” in their construction of the 
social and literary worlds of their narratives—an activity distinct, as set out 
in our introduction, from either straightforward preaching of the gospel 
message or straightforward service on behalf of the community—then we 
may draw from these worlds general theological guides for our own educa¬ 
tional mission. I present four such guides below in the form of short theses 
and their further explication in reference to the American bishops’ pastoral 
message To Teach as Jesus Did, cited at the beginning of this study. 

First Thesis: Catholic and other Christian schools participate in an “edu¬ 
cational mission” of the church to the degree that their identity reflects that 
of Jesus in relation to God and to God’s plan of salvation. 

This thesis virtually follows from the terms of the analogy itself. We have 
seen that both Luke and John create and reinforce identities for their com¬ 
munities through their respective narratives. The image of Jesus stands at 

21 For a similar analogy from the Johannine community to contemporary 
liberation theology based on the common term “oppression,” see Rensberger 

22 Although, in this connection, see Culpepper (1975:261-90). 



the center of this identity for both evangelists, but this image receives its 
significance from the frame given it by each. Luke creates a vision of sacred 
history as the arena for the working out of God’s plan of salvation, with its 
past in the Jewish scriptures, its present in Jesus and in the ekklesia^s the 
fulfillment of these scriptures, and its future in their completion, as salvation 
moves to “the ends of the earth” and toward “universal restoration.” John 
chooses not to emphasize any such plan in favor of a tight focus upon God’s 
own logos, who himself encapsulates all time from the past creation of the 
world, through his earthly ministry and “hour” of his exaltation in the 
present, and into the future of his indwelling presence in the Father and in 
the abiding community. The disciples and, by extension, the recipients of 
John’s or Luke’s education stand with Jesus in this wide frame incorporat¬ 
ing all time and all history, including their own. Jesus is the beginning, pat¬ 
tern, and prototype for all those who witness in his name. As a symbolic 
world view shapes his identity in the text, so also it shapes theirs in their 
concrete lived experience. 

The American bishops’ pastoral message illustrates the need for attention 
to such questions of identity. When they call upon Jesus as the founder of the 
church’s educational mission, as a model for that mission’s effort to promote 
human dignity, and as the initiator of the message, fellowship, and service 
that characterize this mission, they focus correctly upon him as their central 
image, but also leave a great deal—perhaps too much—implicit in the con¬ 
text that gives this image its special character (T/Dipar. 6-14).^^ By shifting 
our focus from teaching as Jesus taught to teaching as the evangelists taught, 
we also shift the emphasis from a somewhat naive imitation of a Jesus de¬ 
void of context toward the construction and maintenance of a “world of 
shared perceptions and understandings” that give Jesus’ identity its signifi¬ 
cance. This becomes the first task of education. If we choose to follow Luke 
and John, then this world must include an account of our place as followers 
of Jesus in the past, present, and future of our world—that is, we must have 
a (hi)story or (hi)stories for our schools. As educators in a context different 
from that of either evangelist, a context that includes a canon with Luke, 

23 It should be noted, however, that the bishops leave the explication of “sa¬ 
cred history” implicit in part because the document addresses a specific concern 
in the light of the documents of Vatican 11, as well as of the broader traditions of 
the church, which themselves provide a context for their image of Jesus and of 
his present-day disciples. 

Locklin: To Teach As the Evangelists Did? 


John, and other distinct voices as well as a diversity of authentic Christian 
traditions, we cannot simply adopt their worlds and the identities that go 
with them. Indeed their worlds, at least if taken in their entirety, appear to 
conflict on key points. Rather, each new generation and each new context 
calls for new construction of such worlds and identities shaped in the light 
of the evangelists and of other NT witnesses.^4 John and Luke make one 
criterion for such construction clear. While the broad contexts of their “so¬ 
cial and literary worlds” give Jesus his distinctive significance and identity, 
so also within these worlds Jesus in his relation to God (John) and in his 
participation in God’s plan (Luke) gives significance to history and identity 
to the community that follows him. Catholic or other Christian schools par¬ 
ticipate in the educational mission of the church to the degree that their 
worlds share this emphasis upon Jesus with those of Luke and John. 

This fundamental insight leads to three shorter theses: 

Second Thesis: Realization of this identity occurs not only in a message, 
but also in a process of discovery. 

After stating their central motif in terms of Jesus as the model educator, 
the American bishops further explicate the educational mission of the church 
in terms of its message of salvation revealed by God, communicated in Jesus, 
and taught in the doctrines of the church {TJD:i6-2o). From our examina¬ 
tion in the second section, we may see that this characterization of God’s 
communication in Jesus as a “message” approximates Luke’s portrayal in 
form if not necessarily in content. Jesus teaches the disciples about God’s 
plan of salvation and its fulfillment in him, and in his pattern they bear wit¬ 
ness to this plan through signs, proclamation, and suffering. John also sees 
the disciples in the pattern set by Jesus, but to their message he adds a further 
educational dimension. In Jesus’ revelation of his own identity and in the 
ways that John uses irony to reveal this identity further, the readers—John’s 
students—become involved in a process of discovery, of confronting their 
identity in relation to the Son and the Father revealed by him, and of com- 

24 For two examples of such constructions from Catholic tradition, see Au¬ 
gustine of Hippo’s motif of the two cities in his De catechizandis rudibus (1950) 
and Bernard Lonergan’s account of progress, decline, and redemption in the 
transcendental notion of the good (1993:49-70). 



ing to believe (cf. Meeks 1972).jf ^ school participates in an educational 
mission analogous to that identified in John, therefore, it cannot remain 
content merely to transmit a “message,” if this indicates a body of informa¬ 
tion about God’s plan or about Jesus’ identity. It can and must teach about 
these things, for they will be central to the world that gives the school its dis¬ 
tinctive identity, but it cannot stop there. Rather, in the image of John as an 
educator. Catholic or other Christian educators must strive to move beyond 
the content of a religion class or homily of a worship service to encourage a 
process of discovery in their students, a process that will ultimately deter¬ 
mine how the students understand themselves in relation to Jesus who 
founds the identity of the school.Such encouragement in the form of ex¬ 
ercises, projects, and/or events that confront students with difficult ques¬ 
tions about themselves, about their world, and about God requires patience, 
a willingness to experiment, and persistence. Moreover, nothing guarantees 
either the students’ active participation or the end results of the process. Yet, 
if we are to educate as the evangelists educate, we cannot reduce the revela¬ 
tion of Jesus to a “message”; on the contrary, we must teach a “how” of rev¬ 
elation in Christ as well as a “what” (cf. O’Day 1986:43-8). 

Third Thesis: Full realization of this identity remains incomplete, open 
to truth from the Spirit and even from the secular world. 

Both John and Luke affirm the guidance of the Spirit in the life of the 
community after Jesus’ departure. After comparing them on the issue of 
the Holy Spirit and witness, we concluded that John presented this guid¬ 
ance as operating in the tight and relatively closed environment of his 
community. In the following section this translated into a sharp dichotomy 
between the community and the hostile “world” that surrounds it. Luke, 
on the other hand, loosens these connections, emphasizing the Spirit’s 
operation in and before Jesus’ ministry as well as God’s freedom to bestow 
the Spirit on the community in a time or season unknown to it—and even 
to surprise them. The relative “looseness” of Luke’s picture translated in 

25 Brodie (1993:36) points out that John never uses “belief’ as a noun but 
employs verbal construction to portray “believing” and coming to believe as 
ongoing activities, indicating a process rather than an accomplished fact. 

26 See Lonergan (1993:88-91,104-5) on “horizons” and “active methods.” 

Locklin: To Teach As the Evangelists Did? 


the following section into his freedom as a writer to portray Gamaliel, a 
member of the hostile “world,” as a reliable witness to the truth of God’s 
plan. It is telling that when the American bishops write of educational 
mission as a service to the world (T/Dipar. 28-30), although they quote 
John, the terms which describe this service—consoling the distressed, car¬ 
ing for the sick and poor, setting free those who are oppressed—echo Luke 
(cf. Lk 4:18-19). While the question of service lies outside our immediate 
inquiry, our analogy allows us to draw a few conclusions about the Chris¬ 
tian school in the world. John asserts that the Spirit will lead the commu¬ 
nity “into all truth” and Luke illustrates a similar process in the Spirit’s 
unexpected interventions in the community. If we educate in the model 
of the evangelists, then, we must become educators attentive to the possi¬ 
bility of new truth and new guidance from the Spirit. Luke further extends 
the possibility for reliable witnesses to the truth to “the world,” which in 
our contemporary context refers primarily to a secular culture rather than 
to a Jewish one. As institutions that educate in the liberal arts as well as 
religion, contemporary Catholic schools are “worldly” institutions. Rather 
than seeing this as a concession to the culture, Luke allows us to perceive 
secular disciplines and culture within the schools as opportunities for the 
further realization of the truth about God’s plan—except where those dis¬ 
ciplines and culture threaten to replace the school’s identity with another 
one based exclusively on secular values such as merit, wealth, or prestige. 
Thus schools that educate in the model of the evangelists recognize and 
carefully protect their distinction from the world and its values; at the same 
time, they educate with an eye for the new, for surprise, and for the truth 
that hadn’t been seen before in quite the same way. In this sense, they can 
bravely embrace innovation and listen for other voices. 

Fourth Thesis: Realization of this identity takes place in the concrete life 
of the school community. 

After citing Jn 13:34-36, the American bishops state: “Community is at 
the heart of Christian education not simply as a concept to be taught but as 
a reality to be lived” (T/D:par. 23).On this point, I believe that we can re- 

27 Cf. Gravissimum educationis (par. 8): “But let teachers realize that to the 
greatest possible extent they determine whether the Catholic school can bring its 
goals and undertakings to fruition. ... Bound by charity to one another and to 



sponsibly affirm both the use of the selected text and the conclusions drawn 
from it. At the conclusion of the second major section, we saw how the pat¬ 
terning of the disciples after Jesus, of the Holy Spirit’s action in the commu¬ 
nity after that of Jesus, and (in John) even of the unity of the community 
after the unity of the Father and Son takes concrete form in the community’s 
internal relations (cf. Minear 1993:149-50). In John these relations are 
founded on the love command. In Luke they are illustrated through the com¬ 
mon devotional and economic life of the early Christian ekklesia Either way, 
these relations serve as privileged instruments of the community’s witness 
to its members’ new identity in the pattern of Christ. Here the translation 
from the evangelists’ educational mission to that of Catholic or other Chris¬ 
tian schools takes place in a direct and challenging manner. If we take John 
seriously, then the school’s Christian identity and participation in a Chris¬ 
tian educational mission resides largely in the love that motivates its inter¬ 
nal operation. If we take Luke seriously, then this love will not remain a vague 
feeling, but will become concrete in social and economic decisions on ev¬ 
ery level—in such affairs as employment practices, budgets, disciplinary 
protocols, and student activities. Naturally, we cannot expect that any school 
will present a perfect model of Christian charity all the time; indeed, both 
Luke’s highly idealized portraits and the later history of the Johannine com¬ 
munity suggest that this was difficult even for the early Christian communi¬ 
ties (see, e.g., Esler 1987:183-7; Brown 1979). Despite the natural limitations 
that we share with early Christians, however, we must begin to perceive an 
intrinsic connection between the life of the school, its identity, and its edu¬ 
cational mission. In the final analysis, in order to educate according to the 
model of Luke and John, schools must educate by giving attention to the 
concrete common life of their school communities. In this way, above all 
others. Catholic and other Christian schools can bear witness to Jesus and 
to God’s plan of salvation and thus participate in an “educational mission” 
to spread the gospel of Christ to the world. 

their students, and penetrated by an apostolic spirit, let them give witness to 
Christ, the unique Teacher, by their lives as well as by their teachings.” 

28 I would like to acknolwedge J. Paul Sampley and Lesley A. Woo for their 
generous assistance on this essay. 

Locklin: To Teach As the Evangelists Did? 



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1998 The Missions of Jesus and the Disciples According to the 

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Purpose and the Mission of the Contemporary Church. 
Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. 

Levenson, Jon D. 

Sinai and Zion: An Entry into the Jewish Bible. San Fran¬ 
cisco: Harper & Row. 

Lofthouse, W. F. 

1941 “The Holy Spirit in the Acts and the Fourth Gospel.” 

Expository Times 52: 334-6. 

Lonergan, Bernard 

1993 Topics in Education. Collected Works of Bernard Lonergan 

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Locklin: To Teach As the Evangelists Did? 


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1986 Revelation in the Fourth Gospel: Narrative Mode and 

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1988 Foundational Issues in Christian Education: An Introduc¬ 

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1990 “The Gospel According to John.” In The New Jerome 

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1996 Narrative Irony in Luke-Acts: The Paradoxical Interaction 

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1991a Farewell of the Word: The Johannine Call to Abide. Minne¬ 
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1991b “The Journey(s) of the Word of God: A Reading of the 
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1992 “The Journey(s) of Jesus to Jerusalem: Plotting and 

Gospel Intertextuality.” In John and the Synoptics, ed. 
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KOINONIA XI/l (1999) 103-118 

Whose Lion Is It, Anyway? 

The Identity of the Lion in Amos 3:12 



Much critical attention has been devoted to the evident textual problems in the 
second half of Amos 3:12. While it is certainly true that text-critical concerns are 
crucial to the interpretation of 3:12, the surrounding oracles, and Amos as a 
whole, it seems that perhaps the famous crux in Amos 3:12b has distracted the 
attention of interpreters from a more subtle exegetical question in the first part 
of the verse. The allusion to the legal tradition of Exodus 22:10-13 is clear: if an 
animal is killed by wild beasts, the shepherd is to bring the remains to the owner 
in order to be absolved of responsibility^ The question of symbolic import, how¬ 
ever, is less clear. The figure of the lion represents someone or something in this 
verse, and the identity of that person or force has substantial implications for the 
interpretation of Amos 3:12 and the surrounding material. Accordingly, this 
study will examine the two most commonly adopted options for identifying the 
lion—Yahweh and the nation of Assyria—discussing biblical and extra-bibli¬ 
cal support for and the interpretive consequences of each option. A third option, 
identifying the lion as Israel, will be proposed. Biblical and contextual evidence 
will be cited to demonstrate that this option is at least as plausible as the first two. 


The first strong possibility is that the lion represents Yahweh, wreaking de¬ 
struction on Israel as punishment for their sins. Indeed, at first glance this 

1A similar regulation appears in the Code of Hammurabi, according to Mays 



seems to be the only reasonable reading, and many scholars accept it with¬ 
out much comment. The support for this position is substantial. In Amos 
3:8, the parallel between and 13*7 niH'’ ’’HK leaves no doubt as 

to the identification of Yahweh with the figure of the lion. The phrase miT’ 
in 1:2 is also a clear appropriation of leonine imagery for de¬ 
scriptions of Yahweh, one that is echoed in Joel 4:16 (3:16 in English) and 
Jeremiah 25:30.^ It is tempting to add Amos 3:4 to the list of verses support¬ 
ing the divine-leonine synthesis in Amos, by virtue of its proximity to 3:8. 
Moreover, Edward Hope, claims that the actual behavior of lions is misun¬ 
derstood by most interpreters and reinterprets the verse to reflect a warning 
of upcoming disaster for Israel (Hope 1991:204-5). Whether 3:4 is adduced 
in support or not, however, there is clearly precedent in Amos for identify¬ 
ing the figure of the lion with Yahweh. 

Such an identification also draws support from the context in which 3:12 
is found. In chapters 1 and 2, oracles announcing the coming punishment 
of various nations are proclaimed, each one beginning with the messenger 
formula miT’ HS. This formula is also found in 3 : 12 . If this is part of a 

parallel oracle against Israel, then the events described should, logically, also 
reflect Yahweh’s punitive action. Since it is the lion doing the damage, then 
the lion must represent Yahweh. A declaration of divine punishment on Is¬ 
rael would certainly be in keeping with the message of Amos as a whole. 

Biblical material outside of Amos also provides evidence in favor of view¬ 
ing the lion as Yahweh. Other 8^^ century prophets, Hosea and Isaiah of 
Jerusalem, make frequent use of such imagery. In Hosea 5:14 and 13:7, God, 
speaking through the prophet, identifies himself in leonine terms, as a 
to Ephraim” and “becoming like a^HU? to them,” respectively. Both of these 
divine self-identifications are cast in the context of a disastrous judgment 
of Israel, a context quite familiar to readers of Amos. The common percep¬ 
tion of the lion as the mightiest and most dangerous of animals, implacable 
and unstoppable in its fury (Botterweck 1974:382), lent a dire urgency to the 
prophetic message. It is interesting to note, however, that Hosea 11:10 dem- 

2 Botterweck (1974:383) and Hall (1995:12) point out the parallel uses of the leo¬ 
nine and the theophanic iVip in these verses as typical of a particular tradition, 
emphasizing divine judgment. Another example is Job 37:4. 

3 According to Botterweck, VnU’'', while unclear in etymology, has generally been 
accepted as a term for “lion,” although other translations, including “serpent” and 
“panther,” depending on context, are attested in various places, such as LXX 


Stith: Whose Lion Is It, Anyway? 


onstrates an entirely different appropriation of the image of a lion. The roar 
of the lion in this verse still represents the voice of Yahweh, and still inspires 
fear and trembling in those who hear it, but rather than a message of judg¬ 
ment, it carries a message of hope. It is the lion’s roar that will signal the end 
of Israel’s punishment and their restoration to the land. Despite the possi¬ 
bility that this text is a later addition, given its assumption of the exile (Wolff 
1974:203), it is certainly the case that the portrayal of Yahweh as a lion is a 
device well attested in Hosea. 

Likewise, Isaiah employs lion images for Yahweh in more than one way. 
In Isaiah 15:9, the divine is again a figure of judgment, this time on 
Moab. In 31:4, however, a similar lion image, again explicitly identified as 
Yahweh, is employed in the context of protection and preservation of Jerusa¬ 
lem. Here, the power of the divine warrior, miT’, is turned back to 

its customary use, against the enemies of Jerusalem, whereas in some places 
throughout the prophetic literature, the divine warrior is portrayed as fight¬ 
ing against Israel in a stunning inversion of the commonly held order of 
things."^ Isaiah’s record of the prayer of Hezekiah also presents a leonine 
depiction of Yahweh giving punishment in relation to a single person, rather 
than a nation (38:14). 

While the 8^^ century prophets make frequent use of the lion as a sym¬ 
bol for Yahweh, and their testimony must have the heaviest influence on our 
reading of Amos, it is worth noting that such imagery occurs elsewhere in 
the Old Testament as well. Jeremiah 49:19, along with the parallel text in 
50:44, portrays the vengeance of Yahweh on the enemies of Israel, Edom and 
Babylon, respectively, as the depredations of an rT’IK, and in 25:38, the di¬ 
vine lion wreaks divine wrath on all the nations on the eschatological OVn 
Kinn. Lamentations 3:10 demonstrates a parallel usage to Isaiah 38:14, with 
the divine lion seen as an expression of judgment upon an individual. In 
short, there is certainly ample scriptural evidence for identifying the lion in 
Amos 3:12 with Yahweh. 

Such association of lions with the divine is not unique to Israel in the 
ancient Near East. Lion- and lioness-cults were common in Egypt, and the 
lion was often venerated as a real manifestation of the sun god. Images of 
lions also appear in association with many other deities, including Atum, 
Schu, Tefnut, Shesmu, and Horus. These associations appear to have been 
derived either from the god’s connection with the sun or from the god’s 

4 See, for example, Amos 3:13,5:16,9:1-6, Isaiah 3:1. 



possession of a stereotypically leonine trait, like prowess in battle or blood¬ 
thirstiness (Botterweck 1974:378). The latter type of association seems par¬ 
ticularly parallel to many of the Old Testament uses discussed above. 
Sumerian and Akkadian literature also depicts numerous gods and god¬ 
desses in leonine terms, particularly concentrating on violent, fighting-ori¬ 
ented images (Botterweck 1974:379-80), and there is a certain amount of 
archaeological evidence which presents various goddesses of the ancient 
Syrian people in connection with lions (Botterweck 1974:381). The associa¬ 
tion of lions with deity, then, was not idiosyncratic to Israel but was com¬ 
mon among its neighbors throughout the ancient Near East (ANE). 

The evidence for reading Amos 3:12 with Yahweh as the destroying lion is 
substantial within Amos itself, the rest of the Old Testament, and the literature 
and iconography of the surrounding nations. Such a reading, if adopted, 
would have several interpretive consequences. First, this reading clearly 
identifies Yahweh as Israel’s opponent, at least for the moment. The image of 
Yahweh gnawing on the slain carcass of the nation, leaving no more than the 
worthless bits necessary to prove that destruction was complete, sets this op¬ 
position in stark relief. The complacent assumption by the '’33 in 

Samaria that Yahweh would save them from any danger is shattered by the 
identification of Yahweh as the very danger from which there is no salvation. 
As the “bits” retrieved by the shepherd indicate, there is nothing to be done 
when a lion visits the flock. There is no hope. All that will remain of Israel is a 
few worthless pieces that will serve to prove the finality of their destruction. 

Such a reading also preserves the most common interpretation of the ex¬ 
tremely difficult second half of 3:12. Regardless of the exact meaning and in¬ 
tent of HDD nRD 3 ,which identifies the particular *’33 

in question, the object of Yahweh’s predatory attentions is taken to be the same 
exploitive, indolent Samaritan upper class at which most, if not all, of Amos’ 
message is directed. 


A second plausible option is that the lion represents Assyria as an instru¬ 
ment of God’s judgment against Israel. While there is no direct evidence for 
this interpretation within Amos, unless 3:12 itself is a reference to Assyria 
(Botterweck 1974:386), there are several facets of the context and content of 
Amos’ message that make this reading attractive. First, Amos’ clear interest 
in and knowledge of the geopolitical situation increases the likelihood that 

Stith: Whose Lion Is It, Anyway? 


the doom he foresaw was couched in such terms. The oracles against the 
nations in chapters 1 and 2 contain numerous demonstrations of this geo¬ 
political focus. For example, the oracle against Damascus/Aram refers to the 
Aramean campaign against Gilead in the last few years of the 9^^ century 
(Mays 1969:29-30), several decades prior to Amos' prophetic activity. Amos' 
contemporary Hosea even demonstrates familiarity with the military his¬ 
tory of Assyria itself, referring to the 841 campaign of Shalmaneser III which 
destroyed the transjordan city of Beth-arbel in Hosea 10:14.5 

Joseph Blenkinsopp has described the 8^^ century prophets as “dissident 
intellectuals” (1995:144), members of a cultural, economic, and literary elite, 
who provided intellectual leadership through social criticism in the transfor¬ 
mation of Israel's faith brought on by the demise of the old clan system and 
the rise of the state.^ The prophets are thus cast as the voices of the 
marginalized in terms of allegiance, as well as the messengers of Yahweh in 
terms of vocation. It need hardly be said that such a characterization fits very 
well with the message of Amos. If the prophets were indeed dissident intellec¬ 
tuals and social critics, it stands to reason that they would likely have been well 
educated, literate, well-informed people with a knowledge of, and—in Isaiah's 
case—direct involvement in (Blenkinsopp 1995:142), current and historic 
political events. Such a conception of the role and background of the proph¬ 
ets in general, and Amos in particular, is quite congenial to those who would 
see Assyria behind the figure of the lion in Amos 3:12. 

But was the lion ever used as a symbol of Assyrian power? The 8^^ cen¬ 
tury prophetic writings preserve only veiled references, if that. Isaiah 5:29 
describes the nation that Yahweh sends against Israel as roaring, growling, 
and carrying off its prey (Israel) like a or a pride of D'’nDD .7 It seems 
likely that Isaiah refers to Assyria, which, under Tiglath-pileser III carried 
out exactly such a destruction and “carrying off' of Israel's Galilee and 
Gilead territories in 734-732 (Cogan 1996:1150). It has also been proposed 
that the divine self-identifications with lion imagery in Hosea 5:14 and 13:7 

5 Blenkinsopp sees a reference to the same event in Amos 6:2, perhaps assum¬ 
ing that Calneh and Hamath fell during the same campaign. In any case, they were 
also under the dominion of Shalmaneser III, which may be the point of 6:2. See also 
Isaiah 10:9, although this verse appears to refer to Tiglath-pileser’s 738 campaign 

6 See also Walzer (1985:13-27). 

7 Botterweck indicates that both N’D*? and nDD can refer to any young beast but 
often indicate lions or young lions in particular (1974:376-7). 



Figure i 

are veiled references to Tiglath-pileser III and Shalmaneser V, respectively 
(Botterweck 1974:383-4), though there is no immediate evidence within the 
text for this claim. 

Later prophetic literature, from the 7^^ century on, contains more depic¬ 
tions of Assyria and other enemy nations as lions. Jeremiah 2:14-15, refer¬ 
ring to the plunderers of Israel, speaks of roaring HDD. The “evil” and “great 
destruction” which Yahweh brings upon Israel “from the north” in 4:6-7, 
which is almost certainly Assyria, is an rT’^lX which destroys whole nations 
in its going forth.^ Most explicitly, Jeremiah describes the “king of Assyria” 
and King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon as who devoured Israel and 

gnawed on its bones, respectively, in 50:17. Nahum 2:11-12 describes the wan¬ 
tonly destructive power of the Ninevites (i.e. the Assyrians) with a rich va¬ 
riety of leonine vocabulary, as a preface to the announcement of Yahweh’s 
judgment upon them. 

A possible reason for the prevalence of lion imagery for the military lead¬ 
ers and power of nations in the Old Testament lies in the royal iconography 
practiced in the great nations of the ANE, particularly Egypt and Assyria it- 

8 There is no convincing reason to see this as a reference to the Scythian cam¬ 
paign against Egypt which is described by Herodotus, as proposed by Botterweck 
(1974:386). Assyria is a much more likely candidate to be described as “destroyer of 
nations,” and would have threatened Palestine from the north. 

Stith: Whose Lion Is It, Anyway? 


self. In Egypt, the king was often portrayed in the company of lions, either 
hunting them as a demonstration of martial prowess,^ fighting alongside 
them in battle (Fig. 1), and even as one of them himself (Fig. 2). A similar 
pattern holds true in Assyrian and other Mesopotamian materials. A 7^^ cen¬ 
tury wall painting from Tell ’Ahmar shows a king hunting lions (Fig. 3), as 
do reliefs from AshurbanipaFs palace in Nineveh (King 1989:274). Reliefs 
and statuary (Figs.^4 and 5) also depict kings as lions, emphasizing their 
deadly battle skills. In general, according to Othmar Keel, throughout the 
ancient Near East, 

(t)he mighty paws of the lion illustrate the merciless, irresistible grasp 
of tyrants; the lion’s open maw denotes their dangerous, insatiable greed; 
the lion’s fearsome roaring matches their invincible pride (1997:85-6). 

A use of lion imagery to represent an invading monarch, particularly an 
Assyrian one, on Amos’ part, would not have been unprecedented. 

An identification of the lion in Amos 3:12 with Assyria would have sev¬ 
eral implications for interpretation. First and foremost, it must be noted that 

9 Keel (1997:281-2) cites examples from depictions of Amenemhet and 
Tutankhamun. See also Pritchard (1969:419). 



Figure 3 

Figure 4 

such an identification does not remove the predicted punishment of Israel 
from the sphere of Yahweh’s control. Indeed, Amos clearly views all the na¬ 
tions as subject to Yahweh’s will, as attested in 9:7-8. Thus, even if Amos does 
have Assyria particularly in mind, the primary theological claim of God’s 
sovereignty is not weakened. Indeed, it could even be strengthened, if 
Yahweh can control so great a nation as Assyria in the exaction of punish¬ 
ment upon Israel.^® 

10 See also Isaiah 10:5-11. 

Stith: Whose Lion Is It, Anyway? 


Figure 5 

The paradigm of prophecy as social critique by dissident intellectuals 
advanced by Walzer and Blenkinsopp would seem to require, or at least an¬ 
ticipate, that predictions of doom would be cast in a political and military 
idiom. Amos’ prophecy certainly fits that mold. However, it is not absolutely 
necessary for the military disaster foreseen by Amos to have been pegged to 
a particular nation or ruler. Amos could very well have predicted disaster 
based only on the internal rottenness of Israel’s society, assuming that such 
doom would come about as an application of Yahweh’s control over the lives 
of nations. He could assume such destruction without knowledge or antici¬ 
pation of a forthcoming era of westward and southern expansion of 
Assyrian influence. 

Ultimately, it is the timing of that era of expansion which provides the 
strongest argument against seeing Assyria behind the lion in Amos 3:12. The 
re-establishment of Assyrian dominance in the Levant did not begin until 
the accession of Tiglath-pileser III to the Assyrian throne in 745. During the 
entire first half of the 8^^ century, the time of Amos’ prophetic activity, 
Assyrian fortunes were at their lowest ebb. During the reign of Adad-nirari 
III (810-783) and the subsequent interregnum (782-745), Assyria’s military 
might was in decline, its territorial influence shrunken, and its very existence 
as an independent state seriously threatened by the nation of Urartu (and 



their sometime allies, the Arameans) to the north and the Babylonians to the 
south (Grayson 1992:743-4). Indeed, it was this very eclipse of Assyrian 
might, coupled with similar internal troubles in Egypt (Spalinger 1992:356- 
8), which created the power vacuum into which Israel under Jeroboam II 
and Judah under Uzziah expanded, achieving influence and prosperity un¬ 
matched since the United Monarchy. All of the most explicit and clear bibli¬ 
cal references to Assyria as lion, as mentioned above, are from sources no 
earlier than the latter half of the 8^^ century, after Tiglath-pileser III seized 
power and began his vigorous and successful program of reconquest and 
expansion. It seems unlikely that Amos, if he sought to refer to a particular 
nation as the instrument of divine wrath, would choose a nation as weak as 
Assyria was in his day.^^ 


The two possibilities for the lion’s identity discussed thus far, Yahweh and 
Assyria, are the most commonly held, and both of them suppose that the 
object of the dubious rescue described in 3:12b is the nation of Israel.The 
present paper proposes that a third option has a similar degree of plausibil¬ 
ity—that the lion in Amos 3:12 represents the nation of Israel, or at least its 
political and economic leadership, and those who will be “rescued” are the 
poor who suffer under their depredations. 

Three challenges must be met for Israel and its leaders to take their place 
alongside Yahweh and Assyria as possible referents of the lion image in 
Amos 3:12. First, the resultant reading must sound like something Amos 
might have said, consistent with the devices and themes of the rest of the 
book. Second, the reading must make sense, or at least as much sense as the 
other readings, with the latter part of verse 12. Finally, verse 3:12 as read must 
fit within the flow and form of its immediate context. If all three of these 

11 Of course, this argument assumes that Amos is dated to the first half of the 8th 
century, following most scholars, based on the references to Uzziah (i;i) and 
Jeroboam (7:9-11). If one postulates a later date for Amos, Assyria’s viability as a 
potential identification of the lion is substantially enhanced. 

12 There are other possible options, but none that has been broadly discussed or 
proposed in relation to this text. 

Stith: Whose Lion Is It, Anyway? 


challenges are met, the case for Israel as a third possible referent is surely 

There is substantial biblical precedent for characterizing Israel with lion 
imagery. In Micah 5:8 (5:7 in Hebrew), the restored remnant of Jacob is de¬ 
scribed as an and a tearing and destroying its enemies beyond 
hope of rescue. A similar “Israel as tearing/destroying lion” motif is evident 
in passages from the later prophets, as well. In Jeremiah 2:30, the sword of 
Israel devours the prophets of Yahweh like a ravening Ezekiel 22:25 

portrays the “princes”^^ of Israel as a roaring lion, this time tearing and de¬ 
vouring people, presumably the poor. The princes in question are accused 
of hoarding treasure and “making widows.” In verse 27 the “officials” of the 
nation are accused, this time with wolf imagery, of “destroying lives to get 
selfish gain,” in what appears to be a parallel to verse 25. The affinity between 
this verse and the proposed reading of Amos 3:12 is clear. Another, possibly 
even dearer parallel is found in Zephaniah 3:3. In this '’IH oracle against 
Jerusalem, the oppression and defilement which characterize the life of the 
city are laid at the feet of the “officials and judges,” the social and political 
elite, who are again portrayed as These prophetic texts, 

along with Jeremiah 12:8, which uses leonine imagery to depict Israel’s re¬ 
bellion against Yahweh, represent an ironic inversion of a widely-practiced 
custom of using animals in general, and lions in particular, to symbolize the 
positive qualities ofikings and elites (Roberts 1991:213). Such inversion of 
common symbols, along with the themes of economic and judicial abuse, 
are characteristic of Amos no less than his later prophetic colleagues. ^5 

Positive symbolic use of animals for nobles and leaders was widespread 
in the ANE. The above discussion of lion imagery in the royal iconography 
of Egypt and Assyria gives witness to this phenomenon, as do Hebrew, 
Ugaritic, and Phoenician sources (Miller 1970:177-8). The tribal blessings in 
Genesis 49 and Deuteronomy 33, the prophecies of Balaam in Numbers 23- 
24, and the allegory in Ezekiel 19:1-9 attest to the existence of this practice 

13 Following LXX over the MT, per Zimmerli (1979:465). 

14 Another possible, though later, parallel is suggested in 4Q169, the pesher on 
Nahum, which appears to interpret the lion imagery in Nahum 2:12-13 with refer¬ 
ence to the abusive elite in Israel and their foreign allies. 

15 In the previous discussion of Assyria as a possible referent of the lion imag¬ 
ery in 3:12, the witness of later prophetic sources was discounted due to the 
difference in geopolitical conditions between the time of Amos’ activity and that of 
the later prophets. However, the internal conditions of Israel and Judah remained 



in biblical writings as well.^^ Thus, there was a well-established tradition 
available for Amos to re-appropriate and invert the image. 

As suggested above, a negative depiction of Israel’s elite using animal im¬ 
agery would represent an inversion of the customary use of such imagery. 
Amos is notorious for employing such inversions of common symbols and 
traditions, and space only permits the mention of a few examples. “Come to 
Bethel—and transgress; to Gilgal—and multiply transgression,” he cries in 
4:4, twisting what appears to have been a familiar “call to worship” used in 
the official sanctuaries of the day (Wolff 1977:218) into a scathing indictment 
of hollow religious practices. Amos 9:1-6 utilizes the traditional imagery of 
the divine warrior: Yahweh killing with the sword, earth melting, the land re¬ 
verting to watery chaos, and the very forces of nature entering into battle at 
Yahweh’s command. The twist here (as mentioned above) is that Yahweh the 
warrior is fighting against Israel, rather than for it, as was customary. Finally, 
in perhaps the most famous inversion of them all, Amos works a shocking 
reversal of the traditional picture of the “Day of Yahweh” in 5:18-20. These 
three examples are more than adequate to establish that prophetic inversion 
was a device used by Amos with considerable frequency. 

The intention of the proposed inversion is also in character for Amos. 
The indictment of the rich who exploit and destroy the poor for their own 
selfish gain is probably the preeminent theme of Amos’ prophecy. Further¬ 
more, lions were often used as symbols of just such rapacity and violence, 
as noted above. In short, it is entirely plausible that Amos used lion imagery 
in a prophetic inversion to indict the leaders of Israel for their conduct to¬ 
ward the poor. 

The relationship between the two halves of Amos 3:12 has been the sub¬ 
ject of much discussion, none of which has been conclusive. The text of 3:12b 
is almost certainly corrupt as given in MT, as no reading that makes com¬ 
plete historical and semantic sense has been proposed (Wolff 1977:196). The 
present paper advocates the adoption of Rabinowitz’s emendation, in which 
the consonantal text of the last two words is redivided, from 

fairly consistent over this time period, at least vis a vis the situation of the poor, so 
the later witnesses are correctly included here. 

16 Genesis 49:9, Deuteronomy 33:20, 22, Numbers 23:24, 24:9, and the Ezekiel 
passage all make use of lion imagery in positive reference to Israel and its leaders, 
although there is at least a hint of the prophetic inversion in Ezekiel 19:1-9. 

Stith: Whose Lion Is It, Anyway? 


to * 721 , translating to “and a part from a leg of a bed (1961:229).” 

The entire verse, however, should then be read, contra Rabinowitz: 

Thus says Yahweh: 

Just as the shepherd rescues from the mouth of the lion 
two shank bones, 
or the tip of an ear, 

So will be rescued the children of Israel, 
who dwell in Samaria on the comer of a couch, 
and a part from a leg of a bed. 

The key to this reading is the interpretation of the last two lines. It seems rea¬ 
sonable that those who have no more than a couple of sticks of furniture are 
likely to be the poorest and most vulnerable members of Samaritan society. 
Thus, the picture painted by this oracle is of an oppression as fierce and all- 
consuming as the ravening lion who represents the oppressors. The injus¬ 
tice of Israel is such that there will barely be enough left of those victimized 
by it to identify. Two shank bones and the tip of an ear (which it appears 
might be the sort of thing Samaritan merchants might offer to the poor for 
sale!) will be all that remains of the poorest of Samaria’s residents.^^ xhe only 
relief available is death. This reading of verse 12 seems at least as coherent as 
any other that has been proposed. 

The immediate context of Amos 3:12 is that of a series of oracles directed 
against Israel. In 3:9-10 Ashdod and Egypt are summoned to witness the 
crimes of oppression committed by Israel. Yahweh announces punishment 
in 3:11, and 3:13-15 contain more descriptions of punishment. Traditional 
readings of 3:12 include it in the statement of punishment, thus making 3:11- 
15 a unit, at least thematically. In literary terms, however, 3:12 is a self-con¬ 
tained unit, beginning with a typical messenger formula, and containing no 
real stylistic connection to the foregoing oracle (Wolff 1977:197). The pro¬ 
posed reading of 3:12 casts the section between 3:9 and 3:15 as alternating 

17 It is worth noting that ’ 13 , which according to this proposal here refers 
to the poor and exploited of Samaria, is used four other times in Amos. In all of 
them (2:11,3:1,4:5, and 9:7) the phrase is vocative, a form of Yahweh’s direct address 
to the people. Such vocative use of Vkiu?’ ’13 is also found elsewhere in the 8th cen¬ 
tury prophets (Isaiah 27:12,31:6, Hosea 4:1). Amos’ use of the phrase here may well 
be another inversion, intended to remind the oppressive ruling class that these poor 
were also Vxnu?’ ’ 13 , and deserving of better treatment. 



statements of indictment and punishment, with both indictments (3:9-10 
and 3:12) cast in highly symbolic terms. Indeed, the first three verses of chap¬ 
ter four continue this pattern, with a symbol-heavy indictment in 4:1 and 
punishment in 4:2-3. It appears that an identification of the '’“IK in Amos 3:12 
as the oppressive ruling class of Israel is quite plausible, at least as much as 
the two options examined above. 


The current study has surveyed the two most commonly proposed possibili¬ 
ties for the identity of the lion in Amos 3:12, Yahweh and Assyria. Analysis 
of the support for each reading in biblical and other ancient Near Eastern 
sources was conducted. A third possibility, that the lion represents the rul¬ 
ing class of Israel in its oppression and exploitation of the poor, was pre¬ 
sented, and shown to be in conformity to substantial biblical precedent. 
Consideration of the interpretive implications of each position led to the 
conclusion that Yahweh and Israel are both quite plausible options, with 
Assyria somewhat less so, due to the probable historical setting of Amos. It 
remains nevertheless a viable option. 


(fig. 1 = Keel 1997 fig. 103) 
(fig. 2 = Keel 1997 fig. 163) 
(fig.3 = Keel 1997 fig. 382) 
(fig. 4 = Keel 1997 fig. 135) 
(fig. 5 = Keel 1997 fig. 102) 

^ The author and Koitwnia thank Professor Doctor Othmar Keel for kind per¬ 
mission to reprint the figures from line drawings in Keel, 1997. 

Stith: Whose Lion Is It, Anyway? 



Blenkinsopp, Joseph 

1995 Sage, Priest, Prophet. Louisville: Westminster John Knox. 
Botterweck, G. Johannes 

1974 Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, ed. G. 

Johannes Botterweck and Helmer Ringgren, vol. 4,374-88. 
Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. 

Gogan, Mordechai 

1996 “Tiglath-pileser III.” The HarperCollins Bible Dictionary, ed. 

Paul J. Achtemeier, 1150. San Francisco: Harper. 

Grayson, A. Kirk 

“History of Mesopotamia (Assyria).” The Anchor Bible 
Dictionary, ed. David N. Freedman, Vol. IV, 732-55. New York: 

Hall, Kevin 


“Listen Up People! The Lion Has Roared: A Study of Amos 
1-2.” Southwestern Journal of Theology ^8 (Fall): 11-9. 

Hope, Edward R 

“Problems of Interpretation in Amos 3:4.” The Bible Transla¬ 
tor 42/2 (April): 201-5. 

Keel, Othmar 


The Symbolism of the Biblical World: Ancient Near Eastern 
Iconography and the Book of Psalms. Winona Lake: 

King, Phillip 


“Biblical Archaeology: Old Testament Examples.” The Bible 
Today 27: 270-7. 

Mays, James Luther 

1969 Amos. Philadelphia: Westminster. 

Miller, Patrick D 

“Animal Names as Designations in Ugaritic and Hebrew.” 
Ugarit-Forschungen 2:177-86. 



Pritchard, J. B. ed. 

Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament. 
Princeton: Princeton University Press. 

Rabinowitz, Isaac 

1961 “The Crux at Amos III 12.” Vetus Testamentum 11: 228-31. 

Roberts, J. J. M. 

1991 Nahum, Habbakkuk, and Zephaniah. Louisville: Westminster 
John Knox. 

Spalinger, Anthony 

1992 “History of Egypt (Dynasties 21-26).” The Anchor Bible 

Walzer, Michael 

Dictionary, ed. David N. Freedman, vol. II, 374-88. New York: 

“Prophecy and Social Criticism.” The Drew Gateway 55/2-3 
(Winter-Spring): 13-27. 

Wolff, Hans Walter 

1974 Hosea. Philadelphia: Fortress. 

1977 Joel and Amos. Philadelphia: Fortress. 

Zimmerli, Walther 

1979 Ezekiel 1. Philadelphia: Fortress. 

Book Reviews 


God's Human Speech: A Practical Theology of Proclamation. By Charles L. 
Bartow. Eerdmans, 1997,169 pages. 

In speaking of Jesus Christ, Charles Bartow states, “[W] hat he was and what 
he did were fully commensurable with what he preached. There was no sepa¬ 
ration of the medium from the message, of the man from his work” (p. 98). 
The same could be said of Charles Bartow and his book. The man who teaches 
passionately and preaches committedly, is fully embodied in the voice of his 
own text. Having worked with the author in and out of the classroom both as 
student and colleague for the past five years, it is impossible not to see the 
man in action and to hear resonances of his voice while engaging this text. 
The strength of this present work is that this is distilled Bartow: richly tex¬ 
tured, keenly reasoned, and passionately articulated. In reading Bartow’s text, 
one cannot separate from his work this flesh and blood teacher and preacher 
who has labored for thirty years to articulate the deeply perceived intuition 
that God speaks through the human words of Scripture and through the 
words of those who faithfully give voice to that witness through public proc¬ 

What is at stake for Bartow is the nature of revelation, that is God’s self- 
revelation in Jesus Christ as attested by Scripture through the power of the 
Holy Spirit. When one says, “Hear the Word of God” as Scripture is read and 
then interpreted in proclamation, it is not an invitation to hear the preacher. 
Rather, it is spoken to “alert people to the fact that, with what we say, God is 
about to make something of them” (p. 9). It is the Word of God that does this. 
The “words” we attend to are God’s human speech. 

In a deconstructionist, postmodern era Bartow asserts that something 
definitive can be said about God’s self-revelation. Bartow argues that there is 
an objective referent to which both literal and figurative language point. In 
speaking out of human experience of divine action, it is figurative language 
that provides much more “abundant” insight into that referent, the God at¬ 
tested in Scripture. Bartow lifts up three tropes of human speech that God 
uses to reveal God’s self: oxymoron, metaphor, and metonymy. In highlight¬ 
ing these three figures, Bartow is able, in an age of radical mistrust of truisms, 
to demonstrate how God’s human speech, that is public reading, proclama¬ 
tion and interpretation of Scripture, both disconfirms and confirms expecta¬ 
tions of what God’s Word is for us. 

When divine self-disclosure disconfirms our previous experience of 
God, we employ the linguistic gesture oxymoron in the endeavor to name 



the inexplicable: a bush burning, yet not consumed; a virgin mother; a hu¬ 
man who is fully God; a crucified, yet risen Savior; a foolishness that is wise 
(p. 12). On the other hand, when God’s self-revelation confirms our previous 
experience of God, the language we employ in the service of naming this 
continuity is metaphor. Metaphors, such as Jesus’ parables, enable humans 
to speak of divine reality (e.g. the kingdom of God) by way of the common 
and mundane: lost coins, planting and reaping, yearning for a lost child (p. 


The theological lynchpin for Bartow’s work lies in his treatment of me¬ 
tonymy. In metonymy “objects of little import in themselves stand for other 
objects or persons of great import” (p. 16). Thus, a crown can refer to the one 
who wears it, as in, “The Crown wishes it decreed.” Bartow makes the case 
that in preaching as well as in the sacraments God reveals God’s self 
metonymically, where the lesser thing refers to and reveals the greater reality: 
in the proclamation of the word, the Word reveals itself to us; in the bread and 
cup Christ is revealed to us. In metonymy there is not only revelation^ there is 
presence. True to a Reformed understanding of the real presence of Christ in 
the Lord’s Supper, in metonymy the “presence” of the thing signified is present. 
Preaching functions as metonym. The Word of God is present in the speak¬ 
ing of those words that God has taken up in service of divine self-initiative 
on behalf of humanity. 

Bartow’s treatment of these figurative tropes returns a certain 
“tensiveness” to the act of proclamation: speaking the unspeakable, describ¬ 
ing the indescribable, making present a seeming absence. This tensiveness is 
grounded in the theological paradox of Jesus Christ as fully God and fully 
human. In upholding this understanding of Jesus Christ, Bartow directs our 
attention to that tensive point where continuity and discontinuity are 
“conflagrated” (chap. 4), namely, in the communion of actio divina and 
homo performans. Actio divina is God’s divine initiative, God’s definitive 
Word on behalf of the world. This Word comes to humanity through homo 
performans, embodying, speaking, and enacting this divine self-attestation. 

Jesus Christ is the definitive locus of both actio divina and homo 
performans (p. 95). This same Jesus is present in the faithful proclamation of 
the Church. How this is possible is what Bartow artistically articulates. The 
crux of the matter is expressed in his own kerygmatic formula: In Jesus Christ, 
God takes us as we are and presses us into the service of what God would have 
us be (p. 49). To this end, God employs human speech. To this end, God em¬ 
ploys human beings in the act of proclamation. 

Book Reviews 


Charles Bartow is a judicious writer. He states clearly and passionately his 
confessional stance. Like the figurative language he engages, though, he wants 
to leave room for a gracious openness in interpretation. Yet, the spectre of 
“faithful” imagining haunts this book. The tacit tensiveness of this work is 
of a man who is himself a walking tome of poetic literature, who grapples 
with granting license to imagine God in humanity’s own image. Bartow 
does not negate human experience. In fact he maintains that the body is 
the locus of much of theological knowing. In matters of primacy of divine 
intiative and human experience, however, he does hold close to the Refor¬ 
mation dictum: the church and its understanding are reformed according 
to the Word of God. 

Michael Polanyi speaks of the intuitive dimension of knowledge, that we 
know far more than we can say. If this is true, then there is a wealth of prac¬ 
tical and imaginative knowledge left to be articulated by Charles Bartow. 
Bartow’s present work says a lot. He offers practical steps to evaluate one’s 
own and others' preaching (chap. 5). Yet this is a dense work and requires 
reflective reading, indwelling and embodying. Bartow’s words function figu¬ 
ratively in that they point to a much larger body of knowledge. This work is 
the distillation of years spent in the classroom and pulpit, refining ways to 
speak of what he intuitively knows and does. This practical theology of proc¬ 
lamation stems from the flesh and blood reality of a man who has been en¬ 
countered by the solemn and ardent love of the very God he proclaims. 

—Michael G. Hegeman 
Princeton Theological Seminary 

Twin City Tales: A Hermeneutical Reassessment of Tula and Chicken Itzd. By 
Lindsay jones. University Press of Colorado, 1995, xii and 482 pages. 

Architecture speaks. It says something about the people who build it as well 
as about those who use it. And the interpretation of architectural meanings 
says much about the people who interpret. Lindsay Jones reads the architec¬ 
tures of ancient Mesoamerica for the tales they might tell; at the same time 
he critically reinterprets the tales told by modern interpreters. His method¬ 
ological suggestions precipitate a fresh approach to understanding ancient 
cultures, especially their religious aspects and meanings. 



Twin City Tales ostensibly addresses the uncanny similitude between ar¬ 
chitectural, sculptural, and other cultural remains from two pre-Columbian 
Mesoamerican cities, Tula in the present-day state of Hidalgo, Mexico, and 
Chichen Itza in the present-day state of Yucatan, Mexico. Jones urges his 
readers to reconsider the accepted narratives explaining the puzzling simili¬ 
tude between these cities by examining the historiographical basis of those 
narratives and by considering a hermeneutics of sacred architecture that 
suggests alternative narratives. 

Explaining the striking similarities of Tula and Chichen Itza has 
preoccuppied scholars of ancient Mesoamerica from the time of Charnay’s 
first descriptions in the i88os. Much of the debate over the decades centers on 
a story of Toltecs from the central plateau of present-day Mexico who im¬ 
posed the architectural styles of their capital city of Tula following their con¬ 
quest of the Maya of Chichen Itza. But Jones insists that the debate surround¬ 
ing the architectural similitude between Tula and Chichen Itza derives from 
a problem that has confronted Europeans and their descendants from at least 
the time of Columbus: the European encounter of the indigenous other and 
the consequent imaginings of Indians in the most ambivalent and contra¬ 
dictory of terms. In Jones’s estimation, the apparent similitude between Tula 
and Chichen Itza that various interpreters have noticed for more than a cen¬ 
tury did not come about from the collision of two historical peoples, as many 
of these interpreters have claimed; instead, they emerge from the collision of 
two idealized images of the American Indian: the noble, intelligent, and con¬ 
templative Maya on the one hand and the savage, barbaric, and ruthless Mexi¬ 
cans on the other. 

By relating the narrower problem of Tula and Chichen Itza to a larger tra¬ 
dition of European imaginings of native Americans, Jones seeks to clear the 
way for his own interpretation. In doing so, he takes the reader into a broadly 
conceived methodological contemplation of how best to intervene in the re¬ 
ception history of the Tula/Chichen Itza conundrum. Jones proposes a cre¬ 
ative hermeneutics that begins with a hermeneutics of suspicion. But he is 
not satisfied with this deconstructive exercise that amounts to, in Jones’s 
words, “the sort of ‘diagnostic hermeneutic’ that is dedicated primarily to lay¬ 
ing bare the abuses, prejudices, and distortions of previous (and our own) 
generations of scholars” (p. 14). A creative hermeneutics, according to Jones, 
must follow its suspicions with a hermeneutics of recovery or replenishment. 
This second methodological phase serves as a constructive and heuristic ap¬ 
proach to positing alternative hypotheses. Jones contends that “although they 

Book Reviews 


are always interpenetrating, the hermeneutics of suspicion pave the way for 
a hermeneutics of retrieval” (p. 14). 

In his turn towards a hermeneutics of replenishment, Jones makes two 
broad methodological recommendations. First, he introduces the concept of 
ritual-architectural event which he describes as “a relational notion that sub¬ 
sumes the work of architecture, the human users, and the ceremonial occa¬ 
sion that brings the architecture and people together into to-and-fro involve¬ 
ment” (p. 186). The advantage of this concept, according to Jones, emerges in 
part from a recognition that the mechanism of hermeneutical reflection 
manifests itself on two levels: at the level of the actual experience of the ritual- 
architectural event and at the level of interpretation of that experience. Con¬ 
sequently, this first recommendation shifts emphasis away from the interpre¬ 
tation of built forms as objects in themselves and toward the interpretation 
of the human experience of architecture. 

Jones’s second methodological recommendation involves what he calls 
''a framework of ritual-architectural priorities'' as a “more hermeneutically 
and religiously significant principle for organizing and comparing specific 
sacred architectures” (p. 186). This framework, however, and its eleven gen¬ 
eral categories of priorities are not intended as a classificatory system for 
cataloging architecture or ritual-architectural events. “Rather,” Jones ex¬ 
plains, “it is a heuristic tool designed to evoke productive, hermeneutical 
conversations between interpreters and specific ritual-architectural cir¬ 
cumstances; it is a methodological stimulant rather than a system of cata- 
loging” (p. 212). 

The interpretive force of Jones’s methodological recommendations aims at 
devising a heuristic approach for creatively rethinking our interpretations of 
specific architectural objects. In their application, his recommendations can 
dramatically alter how we think about sacred buildings and other built forms. 
In the case of Tula and Chichen Itza, for instance, the similitude so obvious to 
generations of observers suddenly becomes less apparent. Jones demonstrates 
that when the interpreter looks at the architecture, sculpture, and art of these 
two locales from the vantage of ritual-architectural priorities rather than in 
terms of form, technique, tradition, or other typical rubrics of comparison, the 
similarities become less prominent and the differences loom large. And those 
differences render the tales of Toltec conquest all the more unlikely. 

The alternative tale that Jones presents may seem anticlimatic following 
his innovative methodological suggestions. Certainly, the narrative that 
emerges from his analysis, one that focuses on the processes of a cosmopoli- 



tan, multiethnic synthesis, lacks the drama and flashiness of previous inter¬ 
pretations focused on bold Toltecs venturing into the Yucatan to conquer the 
passive Maya. But Jones’s conclusions are not so much about retrieving an 
empirical reality as they are about finding a way to engage in plausible herme¬ 
neutical conversations. Thus, his methodological contribution highlights dia¬ 
logue as the mode of scholarly understanding. And dialogues expand rather 
than restrict the potentials for interpretation, as Jones adequately demon¬ 

At the same time, however, Jones remains aware of the limits of dia¬ 
logue and the extent to which his approach might prove useful. A 
significant interpretation, after all, depends on the interests, purposes, and 
intentions of the interpreter. Likewise, a persuasive account depends to 
some degree on the predisposition of those being persuaded. Jones re¬ 
peatedly emphasizes that his own purposes are those of a historian of 
religions; he never claims his methodological insights as a panacea for a 
wider range of academic interests. But it would be unfortunate if cultural 
historians in general dismissed his work; the kinds of dialogues that Jones 
encourages have applications for a variety of scholars working with cul¬ 
tural artifacts. Above all, Jones reminds us that the artifacts of culture gain 
their significance in the experiences of humans, both individually and 
collectively. The stories we tell of these artifacts, regardless of our disci¬ 
plinary commitments, must account for the history of human encounter 
with the objects, including our own encounters. 


Theology of the Old Testament: Testimony, Dispute, Advocacy. By Walter 
Brueggemann. Fortress Press, 1997, xxi and 777 pages. 

Walter Brueggemann’s monumental Theology of the Old Testament stands 
as the latest of this master interpreter’s accomplishments. Brueggemann has 
been a leading interpreter of the Old Testament for over a quarter century. 
His publications include important works on the Psalms, the Pentateuch, 
and biblical theology, as well as significant commentaries on Genesis, Exo¬ 
dus, Jeremiah, and Isaiah. This volume is an attempt to interpret the theo¬ 
logical witness of the Old Testament in a synthetic manner. As such, it is 

Book Reviews 


certainly not Brueggemann’s final contribution to biblical scholarship, but 
it may be his crowning achievement. 

Brueggemann’s Theology can basically be divided into six sections. The 
first section consists of a two-part history of Old Testament theology. In this 
section Brueggemann reviews the history of the discipline from its genesis 
in the Reformation up through the current situation. He treats the contribu¬ 
tions of Luther, Calvin, Gabler, Eichrodt, von Rad, Childs, Jon Levenson, James 
Barr, Rolf Rendtorlf, Phyllis Trible, and Sally McFague. As Brueggemann well 
knows, no historical account is written from an uninterested, objective per¬ 
spective, and Brueggemann’s history certainly isn’t. His history of biblical 
scholarship is told from his own perspective, and it is written to feed into the 
main body of this book. For example, one of the interests which Bruegge¬ 
mann’s history serves is his interest in writing an ahistorical, synthetic theol¬ 
ogy. Even so, this may be the finest, most accessible review of biblical theology 

Brueggemann has organized the main part of his Theology around the 
metaphor of a trial. By means of this metaphor, Brueggemann is able to take up 
the often conflicting and contradictory theological witnesses of different sec¬ 
tions of the Old Testament, yet it allows him to keep these contradictory theo¬ 
logical witnesses under one umbrella. Brueggemann entitles Part I, “Israel’s 
Core Testimony.” Here Brueggemann focuses on the short, verbal sentences 
that he considers to be the heart of Israel’s testimony about God: Yahweh is, 
creates, delivers, saves, and so on. He then moves on to the nouns: Yahweh as 
Judge, Kin, Healer, and so forth. In places, Brueggemann’s interpretation is bril¬ 
liant. This section and the one that follows are the heart of the book. 

Part II is entitled “Israel’s Counter testimony.” In keeping with the trial 
metaphor, Brueggemann imagines this as a “cross-examination” of the core 
testimony. Here Israel hurls unrelenting questions at the basic theological 
witness. The loci of this section include Yahweh’s hiddenness, providence, 
and theodicy. 

In Part III, the trial metaphor is continued, as Brueggemann turns to “Israel’s 
Unsolicited Testimony.” This includes the Old Testament witness concerning 
Israel itself, humanity, the nations, and creation. Part IV, “Israel’s Embodied 
Testimony,” attempts to treat the institutions of Israel such as kingship, the To¬ 
rah, prophecy, cult, and seer. Part V, “Prospects for Theological Interpretation,” 
rounds off the book by placing Brueggemann’s constructive work in dialogue 
with the issues that were raised in his history of scholarship section. 



Brueggemann has taken an enormous risk—one with which I am not 
altogether happy—by choosing “trial” as the dominant metaphor for his the¬ 
ology. The strength of the metaphor is that it allows him to address the full 
diversity and range of the Old Testament theological witness without auto¬ 
matically subsuming one part of that witness. Further, the metaphor allows 
him to keep the theological witness of the Old Testament from disintegrat¬ 
ing into nothing more than a series of isolated views. But there are risks in 
the metaphor. First, Brueggemann uses the trial metaphor very differently 
than it is used in the Bible. For Brueggemann, humanity offers the witness 
and is the jury; God is the object of the testimony. In the Old Testament, 
when the trial metaphor is used, God is judge, prosecutor, and jury while 
humanity is the defendant. In this same vein, the Ghurch has historically 
considered the Bible to be God's Word (God’s testimony), but Bruegge- 
mann’s metaphor reduces the Bible to human word (Israel’s testimony). 
Second, the choice of the trial metaphor is perhaps unfortunate. Recent 
public experiences of trials have suggested that trials are not venues of truth, 
but rather are merely places where power and money dominate. I am think¬ 
ing of such celebrated trials as those of the Rosenthals, O. J. Simpson, the 
Menendez brothers, and the trial of President Clinton in the U. S. Senate. If 
the popular imagination has little faith in the fairness and justice of trials, 
then the metaphor might be an unfortunate choice for understanding the 
theological value of the Old Testament. 

Several other issues are worth mentioning. First, could not the “Core Tes¬ 
timony” and “Countertestimony” have been reversed? On what basis did 
Brueggemann privilege the positive statements about God’s activity and iden¬ 
tity over the questions that Israel raised about God’s hiddenness? Why does 
he choose to start with the verbal sentences about God? Second, what is the 
role of historical criticism in biblical theology? What is the role of history in 
biblical theology? Brueggemann’s great synthetic interpretation of the theo¬ 
logical witness of the Old Testament leaves unanswered both the “thorny is¬ 
sue of happenedness” and the relevance of historical-critical approaches to 

In spite of these questions, Brueggemann’s Theology is an amazing 
achievement; indeed at places it is brilliant. Nothing on the scale or skill of 
Brueggemann’s work has been seen in many years, and it may be that noth¬ 
ing soon will appear to equal it. 


Book Reviews 


For This Land: Writings on Religion in America. By Vine Deloria Jr. Edited 
by James Treat. Routledge, 1998,310 pages. 

For This Land, a collection of essays by Vine Deloria on Native American 
theology, culture, and politics, began as part of James Treat’s master’s thesis 
and eventually grew into a collaborative effort with Deloria himself. The 
anthology is not a complete collection of Deloria’s writings on religion; in 
fact, Deloria resists attempts to systematize his work into any theoretical or 
ideological unity. But Treat has organized the book in a thematic and chro¬ 
nological order that “reflects the development of his thought over time.” 

The book opens with an essay by Treat entitled “An American Critique of 
Religion” covering the details of Deloria’s life and career. In 1974, Time maga¬ 
zine listed eleven “theological superstars of the future” that included Vine 
Deloria. But despite this acclaim, his work has received a rather mixed recep¬ 
tion by the religious academy. Treat tells us that this has more to do with aca¬ 
demic parochialism and reactions against Deloria’s polemical style than with 
any weakness in the work itself And, while many readers take God is Red to 
be the definitive statement of Deloria’s views on religion. Treat intends for 
the essays he has collected to demonstrate Deloria’s engagement with a wider 
range of religious issues and concerns. 

The book is divided into five sections, each with a brief introductory es¬ 
say by Treat. The first division, “White Church, Red Power,” covers the com¬ 
plex relationship between Christian missionaries and tribal activists. The 
essays chronicle the rise of tribal political activism during the 1970s and con¬ 
nect the character of the movement to the “problems, ideologies, and ener¬ 
gies of domestic America” at the time. The writings range from an excerpt 
from his book Custer Died For Your Sins that is very critical of missionary 
institutions to a more balanced account of the excesses of both church 
ofhcials and activists drawn from The Indian Affair. 

The second section, “Liberating Theology,” contains Deloria’s critiques of 
liberation theology. According to Treat, these critiques are among the first to 
challenge liberation theology from the left. In these essays, Deloria concludes 
that liberation theology is problematic because of its dependence on “West¬ 
ern philosophical assumptions and modes of social analysis.” For liberation 
to be taken seriously, he argues, theology itself must be liberated from “West¬ 
ern theories of knowledge and the construction of a new and more compre¬ 
hensive synthesis of human knowledge and experience.” He faults minority, 
feminist, and liberation theologians for ignoring the radical social transfer- 



mations occurring around them and foresees new moral visions of “plan¬ 
etary existence” coming from grassroots leaders rather than professional 

This is followed by “Worldviews in Collision,” a series of essays written 
about the differences between Native American and Christian theologies. 
Deloria’s distinctions are organized around four key differences: views of the 
nature of the universe, the nature of human experience, the nature of reli¬ 
gion, and attitudes towards life itself. Deloria tells us that, “Tribal peoples do 
not hold a doctrine of creation intellectually; they may tell their stories of 
origins, but their idea of creation is a kinship with the world. Christians on 
the other hand have reasonably precise doctrines about creation, but seem to 
have no feeling that they are a part of the world.” 

His arguments in this section often hinge on rather problematic distinc¬ 
tions drawn between idealized worldviews. These are defined by “reason and 
reflection:” whereas Christians have reason. Native Americans are reflective. 
Treat tells the reader that Deloria’s dichotomy is “commonly misread as an 
exercise in essentialist identity politics” but that Deloria is “more ambitious... 
he is after a unified theory of religion grounded in collective human experi¬ 
ences of specific natural environments.” However, even when the terms of 
this argument are shifted to differences between “salvation history” and “sa¬ 
cred land” as rubrics for religious identity, the limitations of employing ideal 
types in analysis of Christianity and Native American religion quickly be¬ 
come very clear. 

The title of section four, “Habits of the State,” is a play on Robert Bellah’s 
Habits of the Heart. Deloria argues that habits (behaviors and normative 
assumptions) are often less dependent on the content of people’s hearts than 
on the political milieu in which they live. In this set of essays Deloria turns his 
attention towards the status of religious freedom in America. The final essay 
in this section, “Secularism, Civil Religion and the Religious Freedom of 
American Indians,” argues that the conflict between Native American reli¬ 
gion and American civil religion is derived from the fact that the former re¬ 
jects devotion to the state. 

The final section, “Old Ways in a New World,” examines the popularity of 
Indian religious traditions among non-Indians and evaluates present efforts 
to revive traditional religions. Treat has included Deloria’s introduction to 
Black Elk Speaks, a noteworthy defense of John Neihardt’s project. Deloria 
admonishes us that while it is difficult to tell whether we are hearing Black Elk 
or Neihardt’s voice in the text, it should not matter. Instead, the book should 

Book Reviews 


be read as a dialogue that expresses transcendent truths about the human 

In most of these assembled essays, Deloria employs a common strategy in 
his critiques of Christian or “Western” thought. First, he frames cultural, sci¬ 
entific, and socio-scientific Truth claims as secular manifestations of reli¬ 
gious beliefs in order to undermine their epistemic authority. He then moves 
to an attempt to recover the historical truths contained in tribal mythic nar¬ 
ratives, juxtaposing what he terms colonial ideologies and indigenous reali¬ 
ties. While Deloria often has been accused of wanting it both ways—that is, 
appealing to Truth and Authenticity in Native American beliefs while critiqu¬ 
ing “Western” epistemology—he has a fascinating habit of confronting the 
reader with arguments that at first seem reductive but turn out to be marvel¬ 
ously subtle and complicated in their conclusions. 

This volume provides a pedagogical gold mine. It is a fine source of indi¬ 
vidual reading selections that stimulate discussion of the politics of Native 
American religion and encourage debate over the paradoxes of religious 
appropriation and reinvention. Moreover, Treat’s loosely chronological or¬ 
dering allows for a reading of the entire collection as a diachronic mapping 
of problems and issues in the study of Native American religion in recent 


Text and Truth: Redefining Biblical Theology. By Francis Watson. Eerdmans, 
1998, viii and 344 pages. 

This book sharpens and elaborates the author’s earlier book Text, Church 
and World (Edinburgh: T 8c T Clark, 1994) in which he makes a good case 
for the priority of theological interpretation of the biblical texts over other 
interpretive approaches. In response to several criticisms of his earlier work, 
Francis Watson puts forth a stronger and more sophisticated proposal for 
doing biblical theology in a theological context. His central thesis is that 
Christian faith demands a theological approach to the Bible because it “has 
its own distinctive reasons for concern with the Bible” (p. viii). In response 
to this Christian demand, Watson sets forth an interdisciplinary biblical 
theology. Thus, Watson’s “biblical theology” is first committed to overcoming 



the disciplinary boundary and autonomy of three interrelated but virtually 
separate disciplines centering around the Bible: systematic theology, Old 
Testament theology, and New Testament theology. Watson laments that the 
separation of biblical theology from systematic theology impoverishes Chris¬ 
tians’ theological engagement with the Bible. Moreover, Watson diagnoses 
that resistance against theological engagement with the Bible results in the 
separation and self-sufficiency of OT and NT scholarship. Watson concludes 
that such disciplinary boundaries and autonomy hinder sustained attempts 
to interpret the biblical texts theologically. He goes on to state that current 
interpretive paradigms such as historical-critical, literary-sociological, and 
post-modern interpretive moves systematically distort their object of inter¬ 
pretation. However, Watson takes care to distinguish his interdisciplinary 
biblical theology from both the Biblical Theology Movement of the 1950s 
and 1960s and current postmodern radical hermeneutics. 

This book is divided into two interrelated but distinct parts: Part One, 
“Studies in Theological Hermeneutics” and Part Two, “The Old Testament in 
Christological Perspective.” The first study capitalizes on both modern and 
post-modern hermeneutical and historiographical theory (A. Cook and 
P. Ricoeur) in order to free gospel scholarship from its positivistic tendency 
to differentiate the so-called historical Jesus from the Christ of faith. In this 
study he concludes that the gospels are “a narration that is both theologically 
motivated and genuinely historiographical” (p. 10). Watson’s discussion, how¬ 
ever, is given wholly to hermeneutical and theoretical discussion without il¬ 
lustrating the hermeneutical principle he is advocating. The second study is 
devoted to refuting deconstructionist readings of the biblical texts, which em¬ 
phasize textual multiplicity and indeterminacy. Through his careful analysis 
of the Transfiguration event in Mark 9, Watson proposes reading the gospel 
of Mark in light of this event in that it represents a form of the one single 
gospel: Jesus Christ. In opposition to a reader-oriented hermeneutic, the third 
study upholds the priority of authorial intention as the location of textual 
meaning by applying speech-act theory to the biblical writings. 

What is assumed in these first three studies is that “theological interpreta¬ 
tion must be oriented towards the external truth mediated through the bib¬ 
lical texts” (p. 12). Watson is adamant that “the truth of God is textually medi¬ 
ated over against theologies that downplay the irreducible textuality of 
Christian truth-claims” (p. 12). The fourth chapter seeks to lay bare “a variety 
of anti-textual, anti-scriptural strategies in the theologies of Schleiermacher, 
Harnack, and Bultmann” (p. 12). The study challenges these scholars’ obses- 

Book Reviews 


sion with the Sache of Christianity—an obsession that risks eliminating the 
textuality (Jewishness) of the Old Testament. In a sense, this chapter forms a 
transition to Part Two in that it hints at seeing the two testaments in interde¬ 
pendent relationship moving toward a single center, the Christ event. 

In Part II, the fifth study examines Eichrodt, von Rad, and Childs’ theo¬ 
logical endeavors with special attention to their theological understanding 
of the interrelationship between the Old and New Testaments. Here Watson 
endorses von Rad’s typological and salvation historical interpretation of the 
Old Testament to perceive the canonical shape of the Christian Old Testa¬ 
ment with special focus on its progress toward the Christ. In opposition to 
two dominant understandings of creation—Moltmann’s eschatological un¬ 
derstanding and J. Barr’s natural theological approach—the sixth study em¬ 
phasizes the particular role of the creation narrative within the biblical nar¬ 
rative as a whole. The seventh study asserts that the Genesis texts are to be 
interpreted along christological rather than philosophical and anthropologi¬ 
cal lines, on the basis of the NT’s identification of Jesus with the image of 
God. Overall, Watson’s christological reading of OT texts aims at reviving “a 
central concern of traditional Christian OT interpretation, long suppressed 
by the hermeneutics of the Enlightenment” (p. 16). Through his analysis of 
Justin Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho, in the final chapter, Watson affirms the 
essential Jewishness of Christian faith and proposes reading the Christian 
Old Testament as the Jewish “semantic matrix of Christian faith” (p. 17). 

In sum, no one can avoid these sophisticated and at the same time prac¬ 
tical issues as long as s/he wishes to work out a biblical theology that seeks to 
be a more self-conscious ecclesial enterprise, because any theological inter¬ 
pretation is bound to involve a normative use of the Bible. Historically con¬ 
sidered, biblical theology has moved from serving a dogmatic concern to 
being a biblical theology that replaces systematic theology. Thus, it has lost its 
relevance to dogmatic theology. Serious biblical theologians cannot escape 
the responsibility of bringing their own biblical exegesis to bear on the dog¬ 
matic concerns of the faith community. There is no need to fear the encroach¬ 
ment of dogmatic theology on biblical exegesis, given that today’s dogmatic 
concerns no longer have a unilateral influence on biblical theology. They may 
rather help discern significant interpretive issues that face all types of readers 
of the Bible and inform them of how they are exposed to philosophical and 
theological currents. Even if we admit to the need for cooperation between 
biblical theology and systematic theology, however, there still remains a ques¬ 
tion about how biblical theology relates to and interacts with systematic the- 



ology in a more concrete theological setting. Watson’s book pays little atten¬ 
tion to this procedural issue. How could Watson respond to those who both 
engage in the historical-critical practice and are firmly committed to the abid¬ 
ing authority of the biblical texts, but do not necessarily agree that any 
significant dialogue with systematic theology should take place? Such schol¬ 
ars may tend to think that the theological significance of a text may be de¬ 
rived directly from its literal, historical meaning without any need for an 
additional disciplinary framework. However, we need to admit that there are 
many instances in which other theological disciplines including systematic 
theology would inform a more theological reading of the Bible. On a delicate 
issue like homosexuality, an interdisciplinary dialogue between biblical 
scholarship and other disciplines such as systematic theology and practical 
theology may help the Church to plot its course somewhere between text and 
context. In conclusion, this book certainly contributes to enriching inter¬ 
disciplinary dialogue by focusing on a theological interpretation of the Bible 
within an ecclesial setting. 


Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America. 
Edited by Darrell L. Guder. The Gospel and Our Culture Series. William B. 
Eerdmans, 1998, viii and 280 pages. 

The editor acknowledges that this book is not simply another “how-to 
manual” for “every conceivable problem a struggling congregation might 
face,” nor is it yet another analysis of the crises which the church in North 
America encounters (p. 2). It is a volume written by an ecumenical group of 
authors who at least claim to recognize the reality that they are located “eth¬ 
nically, ecclesially, geographically, and intellectually” (p. vi). Guder, et. al. un¬ 
dertake a valiant attempt to grapple with the challenge of North American 
religiosity, which they define as becoming more pluralistic, individualistic 
and private. It is a weighty endeavor which seeks to find spiritual and theo¬ 
logical answers to the crises Ghristianity confronts in the North American 
mission field. Guder maintains that these answers will not be found at the 
level of method and problem solving (p.3). In this regard, the authors provide 
a unique and refreshing approach to the theory/praxis debate. 

Book Reviews 


Each of the nine chapters focuses on a particular missional aspect of who 
and what the church is as well as needs to be, including: church, context 
(read culture), challenge (read culture), vocation, witness,community,lead¬ 
ership, structures, and finally, connectedness. The first three chapters de¬ 
scribe the roots of North American Christianity in culture and denomina- 
tionalism. An understanding of the church as institution includes a brief 
description of the self in what is identified as an emerging postmodern 
condition. The parameters of their task do not permit a thorough discus¬ 
sion of postmodernity but essential questions are raised. Chapters Three 
through Six set forth the authors’ vision of what a missional church is and 
does. Chapters Seven through Nine focus on issues related to congrega¬ 
tional practice. 

Though the authors acknowledge that culture is not an easy term to de¬ 
fine, they begin with a citation from Leslie Newbigin’s Other Side 0/1984, 
“The sum total of ways of living built up by a human community and trans¬ 
mitted from one generation to another” (p. 9). Although Guder suggests that 
their evolving definition of culture becomes increasingly complex, subcul¬ 
tures in North American Christianity are not sufficiently differentiated. The 
church culture which appears to provide the basis for discussion is mainline 
Caucasian Protestant North American church culture; the significance of 
race, ethnicity and geography are overlooked. Diversity, when discussed, is 
often included anecdotally in the introduction to a chapter (pp. 19,47) and 
not mentioned again. The definition of culture is revisited by Inagrace 
Dietterich in Chapter Six in her proposal for a church which “cultivates com¬ 
munities of the Holy Spirit.” She concludes that culture is “a dynamic process 
with which Christians should interact in a critical, discriminating and con¬ 
structive manner” (p. 151). Culture is not the focal point of her argument, yet 
she addresses it creatively, clearly and concisely. 

With all of the discussion about culture one might begin to ask if the au¬ 
thors ever advance an exact definition of, or prescription for, the missional 
church. George Hunsberger offers a “synoptic vision” for a missional church 
in Chapter Four which “takes seriously” the “images of the reign of God as a 
gift one receives and a realm one enters” (p. 95). The mission stated succinctly 
is to represent the reign of God in three ways: as its community, as its servant, 
and as its messenger. Hunsberger admits that even these images are not with¬ 
out their dangers (p. 95f.) but concludes that the three facets of mission he 
proposes answer the most “fundamental questions and challenges for the 
contemporary church” (p. 108). These challenges are “the free world of the 



autonomous and decentered self,” “the secular world of privatized religious 
faith,” and “the plural world of relativized perspectives and loyalties” (p. io8f.). 
Whether or not one completely agrees with his analysis or his project, 
Hunsberger’s voice is a necessary one in the sea of solution-oriented 
megachurch proposals available. He places the accent where it belongs—on 
the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

As I read the arguments and proposals of the various authors I was often 
left wondering if there was a congregation anywhere in North America that 
might even begin to live up to the ideals set forth. The final chapters of the 
book focus primarily on aspects of leadership and church structures; they 
are, however, abstract and theoretical. The entire volume would have been 
enhanced by one or more case studies of congregations that attempted some 
kind of missional transformation. Or, is there a congregation in “anywhere 
North America” that has already achieved a missional revision? 

Those interested in Ecclesiology, Evangelism, Missiology and Practical 
Theology will benefit from the collected efforts of the authors who share their 
vision for a North American missional church. Noteworthy is the extended 
bibliography included for those who desire to continue their study of what it 
means to be a missional church. Particularly helpful is the arrangement of the 
resources according to topics of interest. 

— Carol L. Schnabl Schweitzer 
Princeton Theological Seminary 

Saints' Lives and the Rhetoric of Gender: Male and Female in Merovingian 
Hagiography. By John Kitchen. Oxford University Press, 1998, xv and 255 

Taking on the current prevalent proposition that women hagiographers of 
the early Middle Ages understood and portrayed sanctity differently than did 
their male counterparts, John Kitchen examines and rejects gender-based 
differences in hagiographies of women by women. He does this by examin¬ 
ing not only the life of a woman written by a woman, Baudonivia’s Life of 
Saint Radegundy but by first examining the corpus of work by two contem¬ 
poraries, Gregory of Tours and Venantius Fortunatus. “The main objectives 
of this study are therefore to establish the chief rhetorical strategies of the 
standard authors as they narrate the lives of male saints and then to situate 

Book Reviews 


what these same writers say about female saints within the context of their 
larger literary corpus” (p. 17). Having done this, Kitchen can then compare 
the way female saints are portrayed by these male hagiographers to the way 
in which Baudonivia portrays St. Radegund. 

Kitchen does not, however, go directly to a discussion of gender and 
hagiography, but begins with a chapter on “Methods and Metaphors” which 
will be of great use to all students, regardless of their interest in Merovingian 
hagiography. Kitchen writes that “[a]t the end of the twentieth century, 
hagiographic scholarship verges on becoming an amorphous field of study 
indiscriminately incorporating a variety of scholarly trends and disciplines, 
none of which, as an independent approach is specifically suited to treat the 
sources in any satisfactory manner” (p. 7). To criticize this state of affairs— 
the non-existence of hagiographic research as a field of its own—Kitchen 
compares Hippolyte Delehaye, the most renowned of the Bollandists, and 
Peter Brown of Princeton University. Current hagiographic scholarship is 
largely indebted to a Brownian method which incorporates diverse fields such 
as sociology, anthropology and psychology, but which is without an over-arch¬ 
ing methodological scheme explicitly holding the fields together. Kitchen con¬ 
trasts this with the Bollandist method, and Delehaye’s in particular. Delehaye 
wanted to make the study of hagiography a scientific one and he worked on 
setting up a systematic method unto itself. Kitchen regrets that Delehaye’s 
approach to hagiography has not developed into a distinct field of research 
but has been used by diverse scholars with diverse backgrounds looking to 
hagiography with questions which are often innappropriate for the texts. 
Historians and literary theoreticians, who most often use hagiography, fre¬ 
quently ask the wrong questions, while theologians and biblical scholars, who 
could greatly add to our understanding of hagiography with their questions, 
ignore these texts completely. 

Kitchen champions the Delehayean approach which, he holds, is more 
interested in the literary over the historical importance of the texts, and which 
maintains an interdisciplinary approach while offering a rigorous system¬ 
atic method of its own. While his reproach of Brown, that he has offered no 
systematic methodological approach, is one he shares with others. Kitchen 
himself does not offer any overall approach nor any positive suggestions other 
than the invitation to develop further Delehaye’s approach. He faults scholars 
for using hagiography as they see fit yet does concede that hagiographical 
research calls for interdisciplinary studies. In addition, while Kitchen’s sup¬ 
port of Delehaye is refreshing after the thrashing that the latter usually re- 



ceives, he would have been more persuasive if he had directly confronted and 
dealt with Delehaye’s failings. 

This essay on the deficient state of hagiographical research is linked to 
his theme of treatment of gender in that Kitchen maintains that the main 
problem with the study of Merovingian female saints and writers is that it 
is over-specialized and based on assumptions about female sanctity and 
spirituality which maybe overstated or false. He concludes that “the present 
search for a distinctiveness that is determined purely on the basis of gen¬ 
der is undoubtedly a misguided approach to the study of Merovingian Vi¬ 
tae” (p. 159). 

Kitchen wants to put womens’vffae back into their Merovingian con¬ 
text, criticizing such scholars as Susan Wemple and Jo Ann McNamara who 
study only the women and do not relate them to their male counterparts in 
order to see if they truly are different. He begins, therefore, by discussing 
and comparing the works of Venantius Fortunatus and Gregory of Tours 
concerning male saints. After having established the patterns into which 
these vitae fall he then examines the way in which they differ from writing 
about a woman saint. While both authors preface their lives of women with 
the traditional talk of the “weaker sex” and their potential for becoming 
more manly in sanctity, he concludes that the two do not understand fe¬ 
male sanctity in the same way since Gregory of Tours portrays St. 
Monegund in the same way as he does his other saints while Fortunatus 
emphasizes St. Radegund’s severe self-mortification in a way which never 
occurs in any of his other vitae and which Kitchen sees as a hagiographical 

Baudonivia’s Life of Saint Radegund, written as a supplement to 
Fortunatus’, has often been pointed to by scholars as a prime example of how 
differently women authors viewed their subjects than did men. Baudonivia’s 
vita has a more subdued asceticism than does her predecessor’s and she fo¬ 
cuses on Radegund’s religious life and her reading of texts with nuns, rein¬ 
forcing scholars’ belief that women emphasized nurturing and mothering 
themes and charity over asceticism and manly spirituality. However, Kitchen 
points out that Baudonivia’s Radegund also burns down a pagan temple and 
performs punitive miracles, both acts which are associated with a male ideal 
of sanctity. 

Kitchen’s conclusion that search for gender distinctiveness is not nec¬ 
essarily a useful way to look at hagiography should bring up many interest¬ 
ing questions among those who have been studying lives of women saints. 

Book Reviews 


His book is a valuable addition to any study of female gender in hag¬ 
iography and should lead people to turn to a renewed interest in the life of 
St. Radegund. 

—Marianne M. Delaporte 
Princeton Theological Seminary 

Landmarking: City, Church and Jesuit Urban Strategy. By Thomas M. Lucas, 
S.J. Loyola Press, 1997, xiii and 245 pages. 

As eloquent as it is penetrating, Thomas M. Lucas’ Landmarking successfully 
demonstrates Ignatius Loyola’s vision of urban mission. With seventy fig¬ 
ures of maps, paintings, and statistical data. Father Lucas skillfully proves an 
old Jesuit proverb correct: “Bernard loved the valleys, Benedict the moun¬ 
tains; Francis the towns, Ignatius loved great cities.” During the late Medi¬ 
eval Age the mendicant orders had entrees into almost every important 
European city. Once they were inside, politico-religious competition to oc¬ 
cupy the center of the city ensued. The papal bull of 1265 ordered the trian¬ 
gular pattern for mendicant building emplacement, particularly in the cities 
of central and northern Italy. This triangular design for locating the princi¬ 
pal churches of the city was exported to several cities of the New World dur¬ 
ing the sixteenth century. However, Jesuits used a different strategy from the 
beginning: Ignatius always opted for the center of the city. He believed that 
there was a better chance to gain access to the large population and to coop¬ 
erate with the local rulers of the city-state if the main church was located in 
the center of the city. Ignatius initiated this vision of the downtown church: 
“Take special care that you obtain a good and sufficiently large site, or one 
that can be enlarged with time, large enough for house and church, and if 
possible, not too far removed from the conversation of the city; and having 
bought that, it will be a good beginning for all that follows” (p. 140). Lucas 
gives us marvelous visual presentations of the central siting of the principal 
Jesuits’ downtown churches in Vienna, Naples, Palermo, Milan, Lisbon, 
Coimbra, Florence, and Rome. Each city is presented with two illustrations, 
one of the city and another with an enhancement showing the Jesuit down¬ 
town properties. Lucas’ historical investigation of the siting of the Collegio 
Romano and the Chiesa del Gesu (“The Jesuit Pole”) of the city of Rome is 



particularly extraordinary The original illustration with enhancement, the 
original property outline, a bird’s eye view of the building itself, and a con¬ 
temporary picture of the the Chiesa del Gesu help us to see not only the de¬ 
velopment of the Jesuits’ real estate in Rome but also the vision of the Jesuit 
urban mission. 

Lucas seems best qualified to write this kind of book. He participated in 
the large project of the restoration of Ignatius’ own room in the Chiesa del 
Gesu. He also led the exhibition entitled “Saint, Site, and Sacred Strategy: 
Ignatius, Rome, and Jesuit Urbanism” which ran in 1990-1991 in Vatican City 
as part of the “Ignatian Year” celebration of the 500^^ anniversary of Ignatius 
Loyola’s birthday and the 450^^ anniversary of the foundation of the Society. 
The spirit celebrating the Ignatian vision can still be shared through Lucas’ 

The book consists of nine chapters followed by three appendices (Data¬ 
base of Ignatius’ letters, the Constitutions 622 and 623, and the Modo de 
Proceder letter). Chapter one describes the Jesuit movement as an urban 
phenomenon with specific illustrations of Goa, San Francisco, Lima, Macao 
and Beijing. Baltimore and New York are discussed as more recent examples 
of Jesuit urban mission strategy. To Ignatius and his early followers the city 
was Opera Pietatis, the Sacred Theater, and the Jesuits were the actors on the 
urban stage. Chapter two contains biographical information on Ignatius 
Loyola, focusing on his journey from city to city. The following two chapters 
discuss the history of Christianity in relation to the urban civilization of 
Europe. During the Medieval Age, Benedict’s vision to build a self-sufficient 
and self-containing monastery as a social unit was challenged by leaders of 
the city-state who dominated the secular realm of society. Chapter five con¬ 
tinues to cover the significance of church location in the city from the thir¬ 
teenth century to the period of Paul III (1534-1549), from the rise of mendi¬ 
cant orders to the reprise of the Roman Renaissance. Chapters six through 
nine constitute the main argument of the book. Igantius’ vision of Opera 
Pietatis with the city of Rome is well articulated with many useful maps, paint¬ 
ings, chronologies and charts. The statistical figures 7.2 (Annual Growth of 
Jesuit Colleges and Houses, 1538-1556), 7.3 (Chronology of Foundation of 
the Society of Jesus, 1538-1556), 7.4 (Cumulative Growth, Jesuit Colleges and 
Houses, 1538-1556) and 7.5 (Jesuit Institutions by Type) are extremely help¬ 
ful resources for understanding the early institutional development of the 
Society of Jesus. Those who want to study similar topics further can fully 
benefit from Appendix A (Database: Relevant Letters of Ignatius Loyola). 

Book Reviews 


Father Lucas classifies the 6742 letters of Igantius from 1524 to 1556 into fifteen 
categories and lists them in a beautiful and comprehensible chart. He de¬ 
serves many thanks from his colleagues and students for the work. 

Cities have expanded in different ways, both in size and function, ex¬ 
pressing varying aesthetics in their diverse modes of expansion. Moreover, 
the speed of differentiation has accelerated in the process of modernization. 
Cities, especially metropolises, have been home for modernists ever since 
the great Enlightenment thinkers embraced the idea of uniform progress in 
their urban environments. They reinvented the concept of the modern city 
with a distinctive epistemological foundation, including “capitalism’s his¬ 
tory of creative destruction” (David Harvey, The Condition of Postmod¬ 
ernity, Blackwell, 1990:18). David Harvey postulates a direct connection be¬ 
tween the modernization process and urban evolvement in detail: “The 
qualities of modernism seem to have varied, albeit in an active way, across 
the spectrum of the large polyglot cities that emerged in the second half of 
the nineteenth century. Indeed, certain kinds of modernism achieved a par¬ 
ticular trajectory through the capitals of the world, each flourishing as a cul¬ 
tural arena of a particular sort” (Ibid., p. 26). 

However, the modernists’ dream of the uniform city has been challenged 
by postmodern attractions of difference among city dwellers. In the post¬ 
modern city, there is praise of fragmentation, chaos, decentralization, and 
differentiation, with a wholesale paradigm shift in the cultural, economic and 
even religious reality of city life today. New urban plans have been proposed 
to fit the paradigm shift to postmodernity. Again, Harvey tells us that “it is 
nowadays the norm to seek out ‘pluralistic’ and organic strategies for ap¬ 
proaching urban development as a ‘collage’ of highly differentiated spaces and 
mixtures, rather than pursuing grandiose plans based on functional zoning 
of different activities” (Ibid.,p. 40). How can we read Landmarking properly 
in this pluralistic world? Father Lucas’ articulation of Ignatius Loyola’s vision 
of urban mission, based on a paradigm shift from the Medieval concept of 
contemptus mundi into the world-affirming concept of Opera Pietatis, chal¬ 
lenges us to reconsider an appropriate location for the church today. We are 
invited to adjust our religious praxis in the new form of city life which is 
undergoing a paradigm shift with postmodern realities. Where is the best 
location for the church in our postmodern cities? 

—S. K. Kim 

Princeton Theological Seminary 



The Textual Development of the Qumran Community Rule. By Sarianna 
Metso. Studies on the Texts of the Desert of Judah 21. E. J. Brill, 1997, xi and 
173 pages, XIII plates, 4 charts. 

The Rule of the Community is one of the central documents associated with 
the Qumran Community. Its importance to the Community is attested by at 
least twelve manuscripts found in the Caves: iQS [1Q28], 4QS^‘-’ 
[4Q255-4Q264], and 5Q11. At least three other manuscripts may preserve 
portions of the Rule of the Community: 4Q265,5Q13, and 11Q29. The Rule of 
the Community provides not only rules but also theological reflection about 
the Community and its identity. 

From a literary analysis of iQS as well as from the textual evidence of the 
multiple manuscripts, scholars have long recognized that the Rule of the 
Community is a composite document with a complex history. The availabil¬ 
ity of all of the manuscripts of the Rule of the Community provides the basis 
for renewed analysis of the compositional history of this important docu¬ 
ment. Sarianna Metso’s The Textual Development of the Qumran Commu¬ 
nity Ruky a slightly revised version of her doctoral dissertation, provides one 
of the first monograph length studies of the textual evidence. 

The first steps in Metso’s analysis are the reconstruction of the Cave 4 
manuscripts based on the material evidence using the methods developed 
by H. Stegemann and the transcription of the 4Q255-264, 5Q11, and 5Q13. 
Metso provides plates of the Cave 4 manuscripts and presents in an appen¬ 
dix charts sketching the relative placement of the fragments of 4Q257,4Q258, 
4Q259 and 4Q319 [4QOtot], and 4Q260. Metso prepared her transcriptions 
of the Cave 4 material independently from that of E. Qimron, although she 
has included discussion of Qimron’s transcriptions in the final stage of her 
work (p. 2). 

Metso arranges the manuscripts according to textual traditions. Due to 
the fragmentary remains of the manuscripts, Metso is unable to determine 
the textual traditions of 4Q257,4Q260,4Q261,4Q263,4Q264, as well as that 
of the Cave 5 manuscripts (pp. 92-5). She discerns at least three major ver¬ 
sions of the Rule of the Community represented among the various manu¬ 
scripts: 4Q256 and 4Q258, 4Q259, and iQS. One major line of textual tra¬ 
dition is represented by 4Q256 and 4Q258 (pp. 74-90), which are nearly 
identical manuscripts with the exception that 4Q258 began with a parallel to 
iQS beginning at 5.1 while 4Q256 preserves material which also parallels iQS 
1-4 (p. 74). 4Q256 and 4Q258 tend to preserve shorter readings than iQS. 

Book Reviews 


Therefore, Metso judges 4Q256 and 4Q258 to preserve an earlier edition than 
iQS (pp. 89-90). 

In Metso’s analysis, 4Q259 represents a second textual tradition 
(pp. 69-74). The tradition represented by 4Q259 may have also begun with a 
parallel to iQS 5.1 and following, but does not preserve a parallel to iQS 
8.i5b-9.ii, which she identifies as a secondary insertion (pp. 48-54 and Ap¬ 
pendix C). Moreover, instead of a parallel to iQS 10-11, 4Q259 preserves a 
calendrical text scholars have titled Otot, 4Q319 (pp. 48-54 and Appendix C). 
On the basis of the textual evidence, Metso argues that 4Q259 represents an 
edition earlier than iQS (pp. 73-4). 

Finally, according to Metso, iQS represents the third major tradition. iQS, 
in turn, reflects redactional activity as a second scribe has corrected and oth¬ 
erwise modified the material in columns 7-8 (pp. 95-105). 

Thus, Metso envisions a complex history for the development of the Rule 
of the Community (pp. 105-55). According to Metso, the Rule of the Commu¬ 
nity originally consisted of the short version of the parallel to iQS 5-9 ad¬ 
dressed to the Maskil with possibly the Otot material; Metso calls this stage 
“O.” One strand of the tradition [“A”), represented by 4Q259, includes the 
Otot material and adds the scriptural justifications as well as the material 
which strengthens the self-understanding of the Community; i. e. the longer 
version of the parallel to iQS 5-9, but without a parallel to iQS 8.i5b-9.ii. An¬ 
other strand of the tradition [“B”], represented by 4Q256 and 4Q258, pre¬ 
serves the shorter parallel to iQS 5-9, but includes a parallel to iQS 8.i5b-9.ii 
and a parallel to iQS 10-11; eventually, represented by 4Q256, a parallel to iQS 
1-4 is also added to this strand. A third strand [“C”] is represented by iQS 
which is a combination of strands “A” and “B.” Strand “C” undergoes a further 
development [“D”], which is represented by the second scribe who corrected 
and modified iQS in columns 7-8, at times following the tradition of strand 
“A,” at other times following that of strand “B,” and at still other times possibly 
acting independently of any textual tradition. 

Significant questions arise when Metso’s textual analysis is considered 
in conversation with the dating of the manuscript witnesses. The identity 
of the earliest manuscript witness, however, has been the subject of much 
confusion because of two seemingly contradictory, but influential dates for 
4Q259 [4QS^] given by F. M. Cross and J. T. Milik in the secondary litera¬ 
ture. Milik consistently refers to a manuscript whose contents are now 
clearly designated as 4Q259 as dating to the second half of the second cen¬ 
tury BCE, making it the oldest copy of the Rule of the Community. Cross, in 



a recent list of the dates of 4QS manuscripts, however, dates 4Q259 [4QS^] 
to 50-25 BCE. Metso does not adjudicate the discrepancy between these 
two positions (p. 48), but tends to privilege Milik’s earlier date (see p. 147). 
The situation is complicated by Cross’ earlier reference to a Cave 4 papyrus 
manuscript as the earliest copy of the Rule of the Community which “is ten¬ 
tatively designated 4QS^” ( The Ancient Library of Qumran, p. 89 in the 1958 
edition which is reprinted on p. 95 in the 1995 third edition; compare p. 119 
in the 1961 revised edition). M. T. Davis,]. H. Charlesworth, and B. A. Strawn 
have pointed out to me that the manuscript Cross was referring to is now 
designated 4Q255 [4QS^], since only two of the 4QS manuscripts are pa¬ 
pyri, 4Q255 [4QS^] and 4Q257 [405*^], and Cross in his recent list dates 
4Q255 to the second half of the second century BCE. How does one ac¬ 
count for Milik’s dating of 4Q259 as the earliest manuscript? I would sug¬ 
gest that it is due to a miscommunication between Cross and Milik. In his 
earliest reference to 4Q259, Milik indicates that he is actually relying on 
Cross for the dating of 4Q259; “Un des mss. de la Regie preente une ecriture 
assez archaique et daterait, d 'apres R Cross, du debut du s. av. J.-C” (RB 
63 [1956]: p. 61; emphasis added). Since it is now clear that Cross was refer¬ 
ring to 4Q255, not 4Q259, as the oldest manuscript, Milik’s claim that 4Q259 
is the earliest manuscript witness is not an independent dating. Rather, 
Milik’s dating is dependent on Cross who in turn was actually referring to 
4Q255. Thus, paleographically the earliest manuscript is not 4Q259, but 
4Q255, followed by iQS and 4Q257. 

The manuscript dates and the results of Metso’s textual analysis raise the 
question, why are the presumably earlier textual traditions copied by later 
scribes? iQS, which is significantly earlier than 4Q256 and 4Q258 on the one 
hand, and 4Q259 on the other, preserves a longer text and, according to Metso, 
a later tradition than those later manuscripts. The tradition preserved in iQS 
1-4, which is also considered by Metso to be a later addition, is attested in 
iQS, 4Q255, and 4Q257, the three earliest extant manuscripts. While this does 
not necessarily refute Metso’s analysis, it does suggest that other developmen¬ 
tal schemes must also be considered. 

Nevertheless, Metso’s study provides a significant contribution to under¬ 
standing the development of Rule of the Community. Metso’s analysis under¬ 
scores the composite nature of the Rule of the Community and groups the 
manuscripts into plausible textual families. Her work incorporating text 
criticism, literary analysis, and material reconstructions, provides a model 
for similar studies which need to be done on other Qumran documents with 

Book Reviews 


complex textual histories such as the War Scroll (1Q33, 4Q491-4Q496, and 
possibly 4Q497). 

— Henry Wolfgang Leathem Rietz 
Princeton Theological Seminary 

Word Without End: The Old Testament As Abiding Theological Witness. By 
Christopher Seitz. William B. Eerdmans, 1998, xi and 355 pages. 

In a collection of twenty two essays (nine of which were published previ¬ 
ously), Seitz effectively addresses the challenge of the increasing number of 
new approaches to biblical studies by explaining the ultimate significance 
of canonical shaping for discerning theological meaning. Obviously influ¬ 
enced by the canonical approach of Brevard Childs, Seitz makes his own 
contribution to its theory through a probing analysis of the foundational 
questions that ought to inform a Christian reading of the Old Testament. 
Answers he supplies to the questions, ''whose book is the Old Testament and 
why is it being read in the first place,” (p. 340, italics his) support his conclu¬ 
sions concerning the appropriateness of the canonical approach to scrip¬ 

Moving beyond a discussion that focuses only on the principles sustain¬ 
ing his biblical theology, Seitz has divided his essays into three sections titled 
“Biblical Theology,” “Exegesis,” and “Practice.” In the exegetical section, he 
has taken the initiative to apply those principles to the exegesis of Old Testa¬ 
ment texts (primarily from Isaiah). He deals with topics that include (1) a 
redefinition of unity within the book of Isaiah, (2) connections noted be¬ 
tween Isaiah and other canonical books (Lamentations and the Psalms 
specifically), and (3) the canonical tasks imposed upon Christian readers to 
interpret “the Old Testament perse and the Old in novo receptum, as received 
in the New” (p. 194). In his final section, Seitz delivers essays on contempo¬ 
rary and controversial issues facing the church. Two essays deal with the 
modern proposal to use inclusive language for God, two deal with human 
sexuality as presented in scripture with an emphasis on the questions re¬ 
garding homosexuality, one deals with the role of the church in the city, and 
another presents a critique of current patterns applied to lectionary read¬ 



At the heart of every essay, one encounters Seitz’s conviction that the Old 
Testament is “the record of God’s discourse with one particular people” (p. 73), 
and that Christians have become recipients of God’s promises and word 
found there only through Christ. As outsiders who have been adopted into 
the household of Israel and into a relationship with God, Christians have no 
basis for claiming “the capacity to choose and discriminate about God and 
about those texts capable of letting God speak” (p. 48). With a high view of 
scriptural authority, Seitz consistently defers to scripture when addressing 
issues raised within the church, whether that means preserving the Bible’s 
language as it has been handed down without assuming a license to change it, 
or recalling the words of scripture in its “plain sense” in order to discern the 
proper Christian stance toward human sexuality. What is striking in Seitz’s 
presentation is the coherence he seems to discover between his interpreta¬ 
tions of texts from the Old Testament per sc and the New Testament’s under¬ 
standing of the same texts. 

Seitz vividly describes the challenges confronting theological education 
today with its “increasing specialization” and the creation of varying per¬ 
spectives that fail to truly engage one another (p. 3). In the field of Old Testa¬ 
ment study, he notes that students are different than they were at mid-cen¬ 
tury. Not only do “students lack a command of the general content of the 
Bible” (p. 77), but most lack any “deep-seated, long-nurtured, instinctive, 
prerational commitment to the Old Testament in its present form” (p. 79). As 
a result, many perceive the Old Testament as “simply old, and therefore out of 
touch” (p. 77). With his emphasis on scriptural authority, it is not difficult to 
see why he laments “the loss of the biblical world as a trustworthy, challenging, 
cleansing world that all Christians longed to inhabit” (p. 297). 

While his theological approach hopes to restore faith in and commitment 
to the biblical text, his opposition to modern trends in scholarship makes his 
contribution incompatible with a number of views that may not be so easily 
abandoned. Any proposal he perceives as threatening to the present form of 
the biblical text is quickly discarded as an unauthorized and illegitimate move 
by an outsider. There is no tolerance of a hermeneutics of suspicion or dis¬ 
sent while interpreting scripture because the words of scripture have been 
“gifted” to Christians through Christ (p. 49). 

But this reader asks whether some of the concerns raised by the contem¬ 
porary community are truly at odds with the reverence Seitz attributes to 
“God’s word.” For example, in his essay “the Divine Name in Christian Scrip¬ 
ture,” he claims that questions regarding permissible language for God and 

Book Reviews 


“the sufficiency of scripture to describe God as he really exists” (p. 251) are 
eclipsed by the more important question of “whether we are entitled to call 
God anything at all” (p. 252). While this is certainly a larger question that must 
be answered before one moves to consider the way God should be addressed, 
it does not negate the possibility of using non-traditional language for God 
when it is consistent with the character of God as described in “God’s word.” 
Another example of the barrier Seitz has erected between his view of scrip¬ 
ture and tradition and modern questions about the competence of traditional 
language for today’s world can be found when he asks, “are we to swap the 
collective wisdom of the ages for the wisdom of some new power group?” 
(p. 298) It is only without a hermeneutics of suspicion that Seitz can assert 
that the “wisdom of the ages” has been a faithful rendering of God’s word 
unaffected by the interests of any particular power group. 

Consistent with other works from Seitz, this book’s strength is its exegeti- 
cal insight. As he demonstrates the dialectical relationship between the Old 
and New Testament, Seitz presents compelling interpretations of several bib¬ 
lical texts. An expert with regard to the book of Isaiah, Seitz illuminates the 
significance of its message for both the Jew and Christian and highlights the 
continuing relevance of its words “in the sense that Isaiah’s former vision 
remains the church’s final vision” (p. 227). 

Whether used by students as a required textbook for a seminary or by 
ministers as a hermeneutical tool, this book will help define and sharpen the 
theological decisions that confront every modern interpreter of the Bible. 
For the student intrigued by Childs’ canonical approach, Seitz’s work dem¬ 
onstrates its potential to produce exegetical and practical results. But per¬ 
haps most significantly, Seitz has managed to show through his skillful exege¬ 
sis that the Old Testament continues to be a relevant word from God ... a 
“Word without End.” 

—Janell Johnson 
Princeton Theological Seminary 

The Dead Sea Psalms Scrolls and the Book of Psalms. By Peter W. Flint. Brill, 
1997, xxiii and 322 pages with X plates. 

Flint begins this revision of his 1993 Notre Dame doctoral dissertation rather 
boldly. He is confident that his “ambitious” volume “will be welcomed by many 



scholars who are interested in the Book of Psalms, in view of the wealth of 
primary data and pertinent information contained in Part I... and because 
this is the first comprehensive investigation of the Psalter in the light of the 
Dead Sea Scrolls” (p. xi). Flint quickly points out, however, that he is not so 
confident about Part II of his work. Before assessing whether or not Flint’s 
confidence is mis- or well-placed, a brief overview of these and other con¬ 
stituent parts of the book, which appears in the prestigious Studies on the 
Texts of the Desert of Judah series (volume 17), is in order. 

Flint begins with an introduction to the Psalms scrolls, previous scholar¬ 
ship, and the plan of his study. Chapter 1 follows with a treatment of what he 
calls “appropriate terminology.” This includes how later terms such as the 
“Masoretic Text” (MT), “Canon,” “Bible,” and “Apocrypha” must be under¬ 
stood in order to avoid anachronism. Chapter 2 comprises a survey of all of 
the Psalms scrolls found in the Judean Desert, including Qumran proper and 
other locales (Nahal Hever, Masada), as well as various “non-biblical” scrolls 
that have bearing on the Psalms material (e.g., iQpPs [1Q16], one of the 
pesharim [“interpretations”] of the Psalms). Chapters 3-5 along with the five 
appendices present the results of Flint’s painstaking work with the primary 
data. Chapters 3 and 4 include a full listing of variants (nicely defined as a 
difference from the MT or from another one of the Psalms scrolls; pp. 10,51) 
both by manuscript and by Psalm (number and verse). Chapter 5 is a synop¬ 
sis of the data on superscriptions, postscripts, and doxologies in the MT, the 
Scrolls, and the Septuagint (LXX). Appendices 1-5 supplement these chap¬ 
ters in various ways; Appendix 3, “Adjoining Compositions in the Psalms 
Scrolls,” is especially important as it delineates the exact content and order of 
each Psalms manuscript Flint discusses. 

Chapters 6-10 form Part II: “Addressing the Main Issues.” Here Flint at¬ 
tempts to support and demonstrate the validity of what he calls James 
Sanders’s “Qumran Psalms Hypothesis” (see pp. 8 and 135-241 pflss/m). These 
chapters deal with the stabilization of the Psalter (Chapter 6); textual affilia¬ 
tions and editions (Chapter 7); the structure, provenance, and nature of 
iiQPs^, around which the “hypothesis” debate swirls (Chapters 8-9); and the 
Psalms scrolls and the LXX (Chapter 10). Following this is a brief conclusion, 
the appendices (pp. 243-71), a bibliography, and eight very helpful indices 
(pp. 287-322). 

The book is handsomely produced. There are several typographical errors, 
but in a work of this nature, presenting so many technical and textual diffi¬ 
culties, the publishers are to be congratulated on keeping these to a mini- 

Book Reviews 


mum. The volume concludes with ten plates showing various scrolls, mostly 
Psalms manuscripts. 

All in all, this is a fascinating and thought-provoking volume. This is high 
praise for a work that is primarily text-critical in nature! Indeed, I found 
Flint’s work so evocative that it is impossible to do it justice here—either in 
praise or in problematics. Still, to return to an earlier point, Flint’s confidence 
in Part I of his work is well-founded. This section, particularly Chapters 3-4 
with their presentation of variants, is invaluable. This is a rich database that 
one can easily and quickly access when wishing to consult the Scrolls evi¬ 
dence pertinent to the Psalter. Even so, the reader must be aware of two criti¬ 
cal points: Firsty Flint obviously had to compose and/or use editions of all of 
the Psalms manuscripts in order to compile the list of variants. Unfortunately, 
the reader is not provided with these editions in this volume. It should be 
noted that Flint intends this work to complement the forthcoming official 
editions by the Discoveries in the Judaean Desert team (of which he is a part). 
Still, without the benefit of the editions, it is difficult to evaluate many of these 
variants (their readings, states of preservation, contexts, and so forth). Sec¬ 
ond, and more significantly, composing this list of variants prior to the pub¬ 
lication of the final editions means that this database could potentially be¬ 
come obsolete. That is, if Flint and/or other members of the Psalms scrolls 
editorial team change any readings, the list is no longer correct. Flint has 
endeavored to make his work useful even if this latter scenario develops; and, 
in any event, he is to be thanked for providing this gold mine of textual infor¬ 

Flint is less confident in his Part II, which largely revolves around iiQPs^ 
and the “Qumran Psalms Hypothesis” of Sanders. Here Flint argues for a two- 
stage stabilization of the Psalter, attempting to demonstrate that Psalms 1-89 
(Edition I) were finalized before the Qumranic period (and perhaps existed 
as a separate collection, at least in some manuscripts), but that Psalms 90 and 
onwards remained fluid until the end of the first century C.E. when the proto- 
Masoretic Psalter (Edition Ilb) eclipsed all other editions (p. 149). Flint then 
adds another stage. Edition Ila, primarily attested in iiQPs^. This scroll, the 
longest of the Psalms scrolls, has been the subject of a lively debate ever since 
its initial publication by James Sanders in 1965. Flint convincingly argues 
that this manuscript belongs to a textual family at Qumran, indicating that a 
second edition of the Psalter existed there. He calls this the “iiQPs^-Psalter” 
and believes its structure, which he reconstructs to contain fifty-two psalms, 
is related to the solar calendar of exactly fifty-two weeks so important among 



the Jews of Qumran. Flint goes on to argue that this “Psalter” was “compiled 
and used by wider Jewish circles” which also used the solar calendar (p. 199). 

This last point is certainly the most controversial and, despite the three 
arguments Flint adduces (the dating of the compositions of iiQPs^; the ab¬ 
sence of distinctively Qumranic/“sectarian” language; and the presence of 
the solar calendar in other, non-Qumranic Jewish writings), the least con¬ 
vincing part of his thesis. Firsts linguistic—not to mention compositional— 
dating is notoriously complex and typically remains tentative. Second, it seems 
non-sequitur to suggest that the sharing of calendrical concerns equates with 
sharing a manuscript tradition, especially since we have no non-Qumranic 
evidence for the “iiQPs^-Psalter.” Indeed, the Psalms scrolls from Masada, at 
least MasPs^, support the Masoretic tradition. So, while iiQPs^ may be “scrip¬ 
ture” or “canon” at Qumran, there is no definitive evidence that the same holds 
true anywhere else. Third, many documents from Qumran lack sectarian ter¬ 
minology but are no doubt compositions or compilations of the community. 
The excerpted manuscripts of Deuteronomy (e.g., qQDeuF), for instance, do 
not contain “sectually-explicit” language (Carol Newsom’s term), but in their 
selective reordering and abridgement of the biblical material reveal them¬ 
selves to be Qumranic compositions, used and useful (probably) for the litur¬ 
gical life of the community. Flint is well aware of these “secondary collections” 
(pp. 167, 217-8) and admits that this phenomenon may also be reflected in 
the Psalms scrolls, but concludes instead that iiQPs^ is a true, scriptural Psalter, 
“canonical” at Qumran and elsewhere. Flint goes this route, evidently, prima¬ 
rily because in his estimation the “secondary collection” argument assumes 
that the “MT-150 Psalter” was finalized prior to Qumran. Though this logical 
connection could be challenged, it must be repeated that Flint has compiled 
an abundance of information to support his contention that the latter por¬ 
tions of the Psalter were in flux until the end of the first century C.E. 

Flint presents a fascinating argument in Part II, though it will not per¬ 
suade everyone. I, for one, am still unconvinced. In my judgment, the pri¬ 
mary methodological issue is not in determining or valuing whether the “MT- 
150 Psalter” or the “iiQPs^-Psalter” was earlier. Methodologically, we cannot 
presume that the “MT-150 Psalter” was stabilized or finalized prior to Qumran 
(so Flint), but neither can we presume that iiQPs^ was paradigmatic for Jews 
outside Qumran nor even for the Jews of Qumran {contra Flint)—the tex¬ 
tual evidence is simply too pluriform, complex, and contradictory (see 
MasPs'^ for outside Qumran; the many Qumran manuscripts that appear to 
or might support the MT for Qumran itself). Hence, we must be at pains to 

Book Reviews 


ensure that we do not (1) underestimate the Dead Sea Scrolls and so overes¬ 
timate the MT, nor (2) underestimate the MT and so overestimate the Scrolls. 
Flint has done an admirable job for the former; less so for the latter. In my 
judgment, however, the fault lies not with Flint but with the field’s general 
understanding of the relationship between text-criticism and the Scrolls. 
Somehow, we must strike a better balance in accounting for the surprising 
pluriformity (Psalters, canons, Bibles, etc.—all plural!) that we find in the tex¬ 
tual evidence from antiquity and the very specific manuscript information 
at our disposal. Flint helps immeasurably in this regard, but the last chapter 
has yet to be written. 

—Brent A. Strawn 
Princeton Theological Seminary 

The Common Task: A Theology of Christian Mission. By M. Thomas 
Thangaraj. Abingdon Press, 1999,167 pages. 

In a highly readable work which is aimed at the church at large, M. Thomas 
Thangaraj offers his reflections on how a theology of mission should be con¬ 
ceived of today. These reflections are both personal and academic; for 
Thangaraj, as for other theologians, the task of theology necessarily incor¬ 
porates both the personal and the professional life of the theologian (p. 28). 
Thangaraj is D. W. and Ruth Brooks Associate Professor of World Christian¬ 
ity at the Candler School of Theology in Emory University, an institution 
related to The United Methodist Church. He is also a South Indian Chris¬ 
tian, part of a community which responded positively to the Christian mes¬ 
sage when it was brought by Anglican missionaries in the early 19^^ century. 
His theology, then, explicitly draws on both his Indian heritage as well as his 
thinking and experience in the United States of America. 

The logical starting point for Thangaraj’s construction of mission theol¬ 
ogy is his understanding of the word “theology”: it is, quite simply, “God-talk” 
(p.6i). With this definition of theology in mind, Thangaraj raises two perti¬ 
nent questions. One is the question of who are our conversation partners 
when we engage in God-talk, and the second is what is the context of God- 
talk regarding Christian missions today? By comparing his own conversa¬ 
tion partners and context at the end of this century to the conversation part¬ 
ners and context of those publicly talking about God and Christian mission 



at the beginning of this century—specifically at the World Missionary Con¬ 
ference in Edinburgh in 1910—Thangaraj concludes that there has been a 
great widening of the circle of conversation partners over the century, while 
there has been a simultaneous faltering of confidence in the viability and even 
desirability of Christian mission. The circle of conversation partners has 
widened to include not only Christians of various traditions and theological 
inclinations, but also people of other religions and no religion who are greatly 
interested in Christian mission today. The crisis in confidence arises from a 
variety of factors such as the two world wars, the collapse of colonialism, the 
rise to prominence in the Western consciousness of other religions, and most 
importantly for Thangaraj, postmodern thought which “questions and 
deconstructs overarching narratives that govern our thinking” (p. 25). In his 
work, Thangaraj aims to embrace the widening circle of conversation part¬ 
ners while quelling the crisis of confidence in Christian mission. 

The locus for Thangaraj’s theology of Christian mission is humanity at 
large. By starting with this extremely wide circle of conversation partners, the 
author tries to make room for all who may be interested in talking about 
mission. An unavoidable (but unmentioned) consequence of this starting 
point is that Thangaraj is going to fail to attract the conversation of those 
involved in Christian mission who do not want to talk to the rest of inter¬ 
ested humanity, nor even to interested Christians of different theological and 
ideological bents. This may not be too bad a fallout were it not for the fact that 
great numbers of people involved in Christian mission do have such a nega¬ 
tive attitude to people of theological and religious persuasions different from 
their own. 

That being said, how does one include Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, athe¬ 
ists and agnostics, not to mention feuding Christian factions, in a circle of 
God-talk regarding Christian mission? Thangaraj does it by first talking not 
at all about Christian mission, but about “the idea of the mission to humanity. 
Let’s call it missio humanitatis' (p.40).Mission here has two main features: 
it has to do with sending and going forth, and it is undertaken in “a network 
of relations” (p. 48). The hallmarks for a mission to humanity are responsibil¬ 
ity for other human beings and the earth, solidarity with other human beings 
and the earth, and mutuality among all human beings. In other words, 
Thangaraj advocates what might be broadly called a mission of care. 

The first, and perhaps most important of the three hallmarks above is re¬ 
sponsibility. Thangaraj points to H. Richard Niebuhr’s The Responsible Self: 
An Essay in Christian Philosophy and Gordon Kaufman as seminal for his 

Book Reviews 


thinking (p. 50) on responsiblity. The idea of solidarity, also from Niebuhr, 
follows from responsibility. While responsibility “has the danger of implying 
that it is something we do for others: we take responsibility/or others”(p- 53)> 
solidarity ensures that such responsibility is taken in the spirit and attitude 
which takes into account the fullness and importance of others’ humanity. 
“Response and responsibility do not always mean an ‘over-against-ness’; 
rather, they involve much more a ‘being-with-ness’” (p. 54). The act of respon¬ 
sibility must be done in a mode of solidarity. 

The idea of mutuality takes the movement from responsibility to solidar¬ 
ity one step further. Not only are we to act responsibly for others in a mode of 
solidarity, but we are to be open to the mission of those others to us. “Humans 
have a mission to one another.... There are no longer ‘missioners’ and ‘the 
missioned.’ All are missionaries in a relationship of mutuality” (p. 57). In the 
end, then, “the mission of humanity is an act of taking responsibility, in a 
mode of solidarity, shot through with a spirit of mutuality” (p. 58). 

After defining and explicating his idea of missio humanitatis, Thangaraj 
then turns to Christian mission. How does the missio humanitatis become 
the missio ecclesiae (which is also the missio Dei and the missio Christi)'^ 
The answer is that the hallmarks of responsibility, solidarity and mutuality 
take on a specifically Christian character. Christian mission involves cruci¬ 
form responsibility, liberative solidarity and eschatological mutuality. Cruci¬ 
form responsibility “emanates from the cross” (p. 66) and is characterized 
both by vulnerability to others and protest against the demonic exercise of 
human responsibility. Liberative solidarity is compassionate solidarity where 
solidarity with all of humanity is achieved through specific and preferential 
solidarity with those who are oppressed, poor and marginalized. Finally, 
eschatological mutuality “invites us to join [and learn from] the groaning of 
the whole of creation toward the day of freedom and liberation” (p. 75). 

Once Thangaraj has established the categories of cruciform responsibil¬ 
ity, liberative solidarity and eschatological mutuality, he uses them as criteria 
for evaluating various issues in mission such as evangelism and social trans¬ 
formation (chapter 4); the variety of missionary methods used throughout 
mission history (chapter 5); and the biblical witness with respect to missions 
(chapter 6). The final chapter offers some practical tips on how to motivate 
local congregations for Thangaraj’s type of Christian mission. 

There are many commendable facets to this slim, thought provoking vol¬ 
ume. One is that it offers a constructive theology of mission from an Asian 
Christian who is neither defensive about his Christian tradition nor hyper- 



critical of the Western tradition. A second commendable feature of this work 
is that it is ecumenical and interreligious yet radically Christian. A third is its 
attempt to be as catholic as possible in outlook. In all these ways, Thangaraj 
reflects the best that Methodism has to offer to Christian conversation re¬ 
garding mission. 

One can make some minor criticisms of this book; for example, it pre¬ 
sents overly sweeping generalizations of the biblical tradition, and it mis¬ 
reads history at certain points. Perhaps more importantly, the circle of con¬ 
versation partners seems to omit Pentecostals; its vision of ecumenicity 
appears to be restricted to those who would be included in a World Council of 
Churches assembly today. Yet The Common Task is certainly worth reading 
for the insights and ideas it offers, as well as for the questions and reflections 
it generates. 

—Arun W. Jones 
Princeton Theological Seminary 




Clifford Anderson is a third-year Ph.D. student in the Theology de¬ 
partment at Princeton Theological Seminary, specializing in Systematic 
Theology. He is planning to write a dissertation on Edmund Husserl and 
Karl Barth. 

Jaco Hamman is a fourth year Ph.D. student in Pastoral Theology at 
Princeton Theological Seminary. A South African citzen, he received his 
theological training at the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa. Cur¬ 
rently, Jaco is also a resident at Blanton-Peale Graduate Institute in New 
York City, where he is training as a pastoral psychotherapist and as a mar¬ 
riage and family therapist. 

Dieter U. Heinzl is a first year student in the Systematic Theology pro¬ 
gram at Princeton Theological Seminary. He received an M.A. in German 
Language and Literature from the University of Houston and an M.Div. from 
Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. His main interests pertain to 
eschatology, the relationship between time and eternity, and the sacraments. 
Besides his academic work, he m engaged in pastoral ministry and in the 
Jewish-Christian dialogue. 

Reid Blackmer Locklin is a third-year student in the Theol¬ 
ogy department at Boston College, Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, 
pursuing a Ph.D. degree. He is specializing in systematic and com¬ 
parative theology and is currently planning to write a dissertation 

on religious pedagogy and community formation in selected works 

/ / / 

of Saint Augustine and Sri Sankaracarya. 

D. Matthew Stith is a first year student in Old Testament at Princeton 
Theological Seminary. He is particularly interested in the relationship be¬ 
tween archaeology and history. 


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